We are big fans of the New Forest and lucky enough to live within an hour’s drive of it in Hampshire.
During most of our visits we enjoy walks either in the numerous forest inclosures where you can see New Forest ponies, deer and pigs roaming free or along its 40 miles of coastline stretching from the Solent to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
However, we’ve also visited many of its tourist attractions over the years. Here are some of our favourites that make great days out for families.
Lymington has an extensive Saturday market and lots of independent shops to browse around. We love wandering down to the harbour for a New Forest ice cream. The tourist shops on the way to the quayside also sell crabbing lines and buckets – ideal for little fisher-people. On the other side of the harbour you can catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight.
If you visit the New Forest on a fair weather day and have plenty of energy to spare we recommend the 1.5 mile walk from Milford-on-Sea to Hurst Castle at the end of Hurst Spit. It’s a trek across shingle though, so not suitable for buggies. There is a ferry in the summer months. The castle was built by Henry VIII and had a military presence right up to WWII. You get an amazing view of the Needles on the Isle of Wight and can also visit exhibitions within the castle grounds.
If you are into your cars like Mr Tin Box, then Beaulieu is a must see attraction. It’s the home of the World of Top Gear where you can experience a simulation of the show and see some of the vehicles the presenters have trashed over the series. There’s also 250 classic vehicles to see in the motor museum itself, and the beautiful Palace House and grounds to explore.
This is where the ships for Nelson’s fleet were built in the 18th Century and is now home to a maritime museum. There are plenty of interactive displays that little fingers will love. You can also see inside one of the shipwright’s cottages and take a half hour cruise up Beaulieu River.
Long Down Activity Farm
This is a hands-on farm where your children can meet and feed all the animals throughout the day. There are also tractor rides, soft play and outdoor playgrounds. We visited with Tin Box Tot last year and had a great time. It’s definitely somewhere you could return to again and again.