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Bucket list destination:

New Forest

  • New Forest National Park, Hampshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 19 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Annabelle Thorpe

Created by William I as a royal forest in the 12th century, this historic slice of countryside offers something unique and magical – almost a thousand years on.

Swathes of shady ancient woodland open out onto purple heather-clad heathland, and ponies amble freely along the country roads and bridleways. Car parks are dotted between the trees, offering ready access to miles of walking and cycling trails through the beautiful landscapes.

The forest is dotted with postcard-perfect traditional villages, home to cream tea and fudge shops, along with some seriously slick accommodation and fabulous gastropubs. There’s something for everyone here – a great destination for families looking for activities, and the perfect choice for a romantic, outdoorsy break.

Orientation

Flanked by Southampton Water to the east and the pretty towns of Ringwood and Christchurch to the south, the New Forest National Park covers 200sq miles, running right down to the Solent (English Channel).

The main gateways and hubs are the pretty towns of Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst; head away from these tourist honeypots and the forest becomes a quieter, calmer place.

Tours, tickets & transfers

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Small-group New Forest Discovery Walk from Lyndhurst

  • South East England

Getting off of the beaten track this tour will explore a diverse mix of habitats looking both for wildlife and exploring the rich history of the New Forest.

Price £15

Min age 0

Rating 5 / 5 [24 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

Guided Walking Tour of New Forest National Park in Hampshire

  • South East England

Getting off of the beaten track this tour will explore a diverse mix of habitats looking both for wildlife and exploring the rich history of the New Forest. The New Forest is the smallest National Park in England, but is packed full of amazing wildlife - it is also inhabited by thousands of free-roaming livestock and deer, including of course the popular New Forest Ponies! Join us for this guided walk in the heart of the forest to experience some of the amazing scenery on offer, and the chance to see ponies, deer and other wildlife.

Price £15

Min age 0

Rating 5 / 5 [24 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

Travel advice

When to go

The forest gets crowded in school holidays (July-August) – the campsites and hotels are full, the roads get clogged, and getting anywhere takes ages, so stay away from the main hubs if possible. At all other times of the year – even the winter months – it’s a delightful place with far fewer tourists.

Spring sees the birthing of foals, and forest floors carpeted with bluebells and daffodils. Autumn (September-October) is a riot of colour as the deciduous trees shed their leaves.

Getting there and away

The forest is highly accessible, located right at the end of the M3 motorway. The main road in from the east is the A27, which joins the A31 (coming from the west) in the middle of the forest. There are train stations throughout the forest – the main entry point, Brockenhurst, is a 1.5-hour train ride from London Waterloo. Southampton and Bournemouth airports, on either side of the New Forest, are about a 20-minute drive away.

Getting around

The forest is criss-crossed with small lanes and paths – fine for cars except in summer, when traffic can be heavy and roads become clogged. Otherwise, it’s easy to get around by car and there’s plentiful parking.

With miles of waymarked paths, the best way to explore is by bike and the forest is set up to be a cycle-friendly destination. Efficient, bike-friendly trains connect the main towns and villages.

Where to stay

There are excellent hotels dotted throughout the forest; there’s no need to stay near a town. Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst are the most accessible, but get crowded especially in summer. Beaulieu and Burley are two of the prettiest villages, and the sailing town of Lymington is at the southern edge, perfect for getting out on the water. Historic Christchurch, also south of the forest on a fine stretch of coast, is another excellent base.

The Forestry Commission has some great campsites dotted around the forest – many in beautifully unspoilt areas – even for non-campers, they are great for a night or two.