With beautiful ancient woodlands, picturesque villages and 40 miles of scenic coastline dotted with bustling seaside towns, the New Forest is a fantastic destination for a relaxing break
Why visit the New Forest?
The New Forest’s heaths and woodlands have remained largely unchanged since the time of William the Conqueror and offer a wonderfully relaxing environment for a break away.
There are plenty of ways to explore the national park, and walkers and cyclists can enjoy a wide variety of trails. It is also an excellent location for horse riding and whether you’re an experienced rider or a novice, there’s a good selection of facilities to choose from. There are plenty of outdoor activities on offer in the New Forest and water-sports enthusiasts can try kayaking , windsurfing and sailing on the coast, or cable wakeboarding at the New Forest Water Park.
The New Forest has many wonderful attractions for families and you’ll find thrilling rides and animatronic dinosaurs at Paultons Park, fascinating wildlife at the New Forest Wildlife Park and beautiful birds of prey at Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre.
For a truly varied day out head to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, home to more than 250 vehicles and the beautiful Victorian Gothic Palace House. If you’re passionate about gardening, then visit Exbury Gardens with its stunning Azalea Bowl, or the delightful Furzey Gardens, where you can see its recreated RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Award-winning garden.
New Forest weekend breaks really must include some time by the sea. The national park boasts 40 miles of unspoilt coastline, peppered with quiet sandy beaches and bustling seaside towns such as Lymington, where you can catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight for a day’s sightseeing.
The New Forest has some delightful villages and towns, and don’t be surprised to see donkeys, deer, ponies or cows wandering freely through village streets where you’ll also find independent shops, cosy tearooms and bustling cafes. Relax at the end of the day at one of the New Forest’s olde worlde pubs, many of which serve local beers and wines, or dine out at one of the area’s wonderful restaurants.
A brief history
The ‘nova foresta’ or ‘new hunting ground’ was established by William the Conqueror in 1079, with the area reserved exclusively for the hunting of ‘beasts of the chase’ by the king and his companions. William imposed Forest Law over the area, meaning that peasants could no longer hunt or take wood to build homes or use for fires. Penalties for violation were severe and caused much unrest among the local people. The Charter of the Forest was passed in 1217 and restored the right of local people to graze their livestock in the forest. Common rights are still protected by law to this day and around 500 ‘commoners’ are entitled to turn out their livestock to pasture in the forest. The grazing of these ponies, cattle, donkeys, pigs and sheep has helped to preserve and maintain the unique landscape we know today. To discover more about the national park, visit the New Forest Centre at Lyndhurst.
When’s a good time to visit the New Forest?
The beautiful unspoilt woodlands and heathlands of the New Forest make it a fabulous place to visit throughout the year. The character of the forest alters with the seasons, and spring and autumn are particularly good times to enjoy the changing colours.
The area also hosts many festivals and events, so you may want to plan your New Forest short breaks to coincide with the festivities. The New Forest Show is the main agricultural and equestrian event and takes place in July. You can see livestock competitions and show jumping, and enjoy a wide range of entertainment, craft stalls and food from local producers.
With magnificent views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight, the New Forest’s coastline is a great place to watch the action as the Cowes Week regatta sets sail in August. There’s also plenty to see during June when the Isle of Wight hosts it annual Festival of the Sea.
The New Forest Walking Festival in October offers a great opportunity to learn more about the forest and includes guided history hikes and wildlife walks, all led by local experts. And as autumn turns to winter you can enjoy the New Forest Food and Drink Festival in late October. You will find events and activities taking place across the area featuring the best locally sourced produce.
By rail: There are regular mainline train services to Brockenhurst station in the heart of the New Forest.
By coach: National Express coaches stop at various destinations in the New Forest.
By bus: The New Forest is served by a public bus network.
By ferry: Regular ferry services run from Lymington to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and from Hythe to Southampton.
Check out our affordable hotels in the New Forest and see this beautiful collection of town and villages for yourself.