Top places to stay in Hampshire

Days out, Destinations

Posted by Ed Roberts on 29th January 2024

Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth by night over water

Come to Hampshire to enjoy a holiday with a difference, there are so many lovely places to stay. Hampshire is a vast county that encompasses a beautiful, secluded coastline, swathes of the New Forest, maritime cities such as Portsmouth and Southampton, the most westerly section of the South Downs Way, and lots of historic and family-friendly visitor attractions.

Hampshire is a superb choice of holiday destination, simply because there is so much to see. This county has everything from gorgeous beauty spots and landmarks to dramatic castles and fortifications, as well as incredible National Trust properties, exciting theme parks, and long-distance walking trails like the Solent Way. Plus, the Isle of Wight is just off the coast and can be visited for a day trip via a ferry from Lymington or Southampton. 

If you want to get to know Hampshire and the South Coast in style, why not book a holiday in one of our self-catering cottages? We have Hampshire holiday accommodation all across the county for you and your loved ones. Click on the button below to browse our collection.

Hampshire cottages

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Jane Austen's old house in Alton with a field full of daffodils

Alton – best for both literature and steam train enthusiasts

Not to be confused with Alton in Staffordshire (which is home to Alton Towers), Alton in Hampshire, is much more of a relaxing prospect. This Alton, which is close to Farnham, is famed for being home to Jane Austen’s House, which is now a museum packed with artefacts celebrating her books and life.

For lovers of steam trains, the Watercress Line sets off from Alton; you can catch a train through the gorgeous countryside to Alresford (12 miles).

Highlights of Alton

Alton cottages

Buckler's Hard, an open -air museum in Beaulieu

Beaulieu – best for ship and car fanatics

For such a small place, Beaulieu is home to two amazing visitor attractions and lush New Forest scenery. As well as the museums, there is a beautiful walk along the Beaulieu River to the open-air museum at Buckler’s Hard, which was the ship builders’ village where Admiral Nelson’s fleet was built. 

In the main village is the National Motor Museum, which is packed to the rooftops with cars that stretch to the early days of motor engineering. There is also a vast estate to walk around with acres of pretty landscaped gardens. Beaulieu is home to some superb places to eat and drink like Steff’s Kitchen, and The Terrace.

Highlights of Beaulieu

Beaulieu cottages

Wild pony on New Forest reflected in waters on the heath

Brockenhurst – best for cyclists

Brockenhurst is a small town in the heart of the New Forest and is the perfect place to hire a bike for a day of trail riding. There are numerous places to hire a bike for you and your tribe, as well as a large number of cycling paths in the area that criss-cross across the New Forest.  

One of Brockenhurst’s main draws is the Rhinefield Ornamental Woodland and Drive; in May and June when it's vibrant with the colours of rhododendrons and azaleas. There is a golf club at the edge of town for sporty visitors too. Brockenhurst is a good New Forest hub with lots of handy shops, pubs, and restaurants such as Le Blaireau, and Commoners; it is also one of the New Forest’s main transport hubs for bus and rail links.   

Highlights of Brockenhurst

Brockenhurst cottages

Hythe seen from Southampton Water; Hythe Pier in the foreground

Hythe – best for an off-the-beaten-track break

Hythe is a small ‘out of the way’ town on the west bank of Southampton Water. It’s the home of the UK’s first marina, one of the country's longest piers (with a narrow-gauge train), and a lovely boardwalk. You can enjoy views of Southampton’s docks upriver where you can see colossal cruise liners, ferries, and yachts. 

Being at the edge of New Forest, you can also discover hidden gems like Calshot Spit and Lepe Country Park. Hythe was once home to T.E. Russell and the inventor of the hovercraft, Christopher Cockerell. The town itself has a few good shops and nice waterfront cafes. For more inspiration, have a read of our guide to the best things to do in the New Forest

Highlights of Hythe

  • Hythe Boardwalk: A natural choice for those who love a waterside stroll
  • Lepe Country Park: There is a mile of beachfront, wildflower meadows, and enchanting woodlands to discover 
  • Calshot Spit: Offers the best seaside views for miles, you can even see the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower 
  • Stay nearby: Teapots | sleeps 2 

Hythe cottages

Fishing nets at Lymington Harbour in the New Forest: small launches in the background

Lymington – best for short strolls

Lymington is a quaint town on the coast of Hampshire that serves as a mainland gateway to the Isle of Wight. It is home to a large shopping centre, an outdoor swimming pool, and a superb seaside walk around Keyhaven Marshes

The seawater baths should be at the top of your list if you are in town. Open from April to September, this 110-metre pool is very popular with visitors and locals. A day trip over The Solent to the Isle of Wight is great fun too.

Highlights of Lymington

Lymington cottages

Autumnal woodland road in Lyndhurst, New Forest

Lyndhurst – best for wildlife watching

Lyndhurst is a Hampshire town, and it’s a great place to base yourself if you want to see the wild animals of the New Forest. Look out for New Forest ponies, pigs, deer, donkeys, foxes, and badgers. Lyndhurst is similar to Brockenhurst, except that it is larger and more central for seeing the best of the national park. Attractions in Lyndhurst include Alice Liddell’s grave and the countless trails that take you through the local heaths and pastures. 

Don’t miss Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, and The Reptile Centre too. The town is well-populated with great eateries such as The Forage, and Passage to India. Lyndhurst is also home to a colossal antique shop which will delight bargain hunters.

Highlights of Lyndhurst

Lyndhurst cottages

Hurst Castle in Milford-on-Sea with lighthouse visible.

Milford-on-Sea – best for seaside walks

Milford-on-Sea gives visitors a front-row seat to one of the best seaside views in the UK. Across The Solent, you can see The Needles off the coast of the Isle of Wight in profile. It’s amazing for photographers. It’s also got a few gems of its own that include a long promenade, a pebble beach, and access to a sweeping stone peninsula called Hurst Spit that reaches 2 miles into The Solent. 

At the end, you can find Hurst Castle, one of Henry VIII’s fortresses. It’s a great walk, and very rewarding. Sometimes a ferry can be taken to Keyhaven which is also a short walk from Milford-on-Sea.

Highlights of Milford-on-Sea

Milford-on-Sea cottages

Beautiful village church and a pond in Petersfield, Hampshire.

Petersfield – best for stargazers

Petersfield is a hidden gem in Hampshire with great walks for visitors. Sitting at one end of the South Downs Way, this small market town is also close to Butser Hill which is a high beacon giving daytrippers amazing views across the county; it’s also a Dark Sky Discovery Site so bring a telescope to view the night sky. 

With easy train links between Portsmouth and London, there are some lovely reasons to head to Petersfield. The town itself centres around a large market square and also has a large town park with a lake called Heath Pond.

Highlights of Petersfield

Aerial shot of Portsmouth's Gunwharf Quays and Spinnaker Tower

Portsmouth – best for a city break

Portsmouth is famous for its maritime history and it’s still home to much of the UK’s fleet of warships. You can see some wonderful past examples of ships in Portsmouth including HMS Victory and the remains of the Mary Rose in the Historic Dockyard.

It’s a superb place to visit with your whole family and that’s just for starters. Portsmouth has a huge shopping centre that encompasses Gunwharf Quays. Take a walk along the promenade at Southsea or get a hovercraft from the beach for a day trip to the Isle of Wight.

Highlights of Portsmouth

Portsmouth cottages

Winchester Cathedral and the city as seen from above.

Winchester – best for history

Winchester is full of interesting architectural treasures such as its eye-catching cathedral and a cast of elegant Elizabethan and Regency-era buildings. The city is characterised by the City Mill and the winding River Itchen that courses through its heart. The city is associated with King Arthur; you can even see the 13th-century Round Table hung in the Great Hall that has been signed by Henry VIII. 

Visit Wolvesey Castle, Jane Austen’s grave, John Keats’ Walk, or simply get lost amongst Winchester’s narrow streets. If you love shopping, interesting boutiques rub shoulders with your high street favourites, and as expected, there is a vast choice of places to eat and drink.

Highlights of Winchester

Winchester cottages

Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages

After reading all about the best places to stay in Hampshire on the South Coast, we hope you’ll be coming to visit sometime soon! Hampshire, including the New Forest, offers something for everyone, from the adventurous to those simply looking to relax and unwind. Take a look at our entire collection of Hampshire cottages by clicking the button below. 

Hampshire cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.