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24 Best things to see & do in New Forest

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

Last updated: 19 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Annabelle Thorpe
  • Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Landscape view of the Stonehenge on a sunny day with blue skies

Bucket List Experience

Stonehenge

There’s nowhere else in the UK that quite matches Stonehenge for history, atmosphere and mysticism.

An ancient burial site dating back to at least 2,500 BC, the iconic stone circle is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world. Surrounded by burial mounds, and Bronze Age and Neolithic monuments, Stonehenge offers a unique glimpse of England’s pre-history.

The state-of-the-art visitor centre has over 250 archaeological exhibits discovered around the site, alongside a 360-degree virtual experience of standing among the stones. Next to the centre, a clutch of re-created Neolithic houses gives an insight into how people lived 4,500 years ago.

While much has been discovered about the site, Stonehenge remains shrouded in mystery to this day. No one is sure for certain what purpose the structure once served. Was it a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, or simply an elaborate burial site?

Most mysterious of all is how our Neolithic ancestors – more than four millennia ago and using only primitive tools – managed to manoeuvre the huge stones, the heaviest of which weighs around 50 tons. It was once thought the stones had been transported from the Preseli Hills in Wales (more than 150 miles away), but a recent theory suggests the stones may have come from much closer, deposited near the site by the Irish Sea Glacier during the last Ice Age.

Adult price: £22

Good for age: 4+

  • Beaulieu, Hampshire, United Kingdom (UK)

National Motor Museum

Bucket List Experience

National Motor Museum

The elegant country estate that houses the National Motor Museum has been home to the Montague family for almost 500 years. With more than 250 cars and bikes in its collection, passionate car fan Lord Montague has made Beaulieu the biggest motoring attraction in the country.

The museum also houses the ‘World of Top Gear’ and ‘On Screen Cars’, with familiar motors including the Trotter’s Robin Reliant, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Ron Weasley’s ‘flying’ Ford Anglia.

Adult price: £26

Good for age: 4+

  • Hampshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Chilli pepper apple jam with herbs. Top view.

Bucket List Experience

New Forest’s best food & drink

Hidden away between the swathes of woodland, the New Forest is home to dozens of specialist food and drink producers, offering everything from cheeses and cider to chocolates, cured meats and home-made baked goods, as well as traditional holiday treats including fudge and ice-cream.

Building further on the local gastro theme, throughout the Forest, pubs, restaurants and hotels offer menus with ingredients sourced locally; look out for the New Forest Marque – awarded to produce that has been grown, reared or produced within the New Forest.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: -

  • Salisbury, Wiltshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior of the cathedral on sunny day

Bucket List Experience

Salisbury Cathedral

One of the UK’s most beautiful cathedrals, boasting superb Gothic architecture, also lays claim to having the UK’s tallest spire (123m). It also has the largest cloister, the largest cathedral close, and contains one of the world’s oldest clocks.

The cathedral is also famously home to the best-preserved of the four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta, a highly significant historical document from 1215. The Magna Carta Libertatum was an English legal charter that required King John of England to proclaim certain rights, respect certain legal procedures, and accept that his will could be bound by the law, thus limiting his powers.

‘Tower Tours’ allow you to go inside the spire to see the medieval wooden scaffolding, where guides will explain the medieval construction methods as you climb the 332 steps to the roof space at the base of the spire, 68m up. Tours also include the Magna Carta.

Adult price: £9

Good for age: 13+

  • Hampshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Cycling in the New Forest

Bucket List Experience

Cycling in the New Forest

As cycling destinations go, this stunning ancient forest is just about perfect. There are more than 100 miles of off-road cycle routes for all ages and abilities, from family-friendly flat trails across open moorland, to challenging routes for mountain bike enthusiasts.

The New Forest has a variety of habitats to explore – traditional English villages with cutesy country pubs for eating and sleeping, and an abundance of wildlife to spot. Cycling is the best way to see it all and to understand country life here. Trails criss-cross the whole area, so you can start anywhere; pick up a bike and off you go.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: -

  • Hampshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Walking in the New Forest

Bucket List Experience

Walking in the New Forest

Walking in the New Forest is a joy; trails are easy and accessible, and invariably include a charming country pub or two. There are longer trails for serious walkers, but walking here can be as simple as leaving the car and strolling into the trees – away from the traffic and the busy villages.

Horses, ponies and even cows run wild here, there’s wildlife aplenty, and the deciduous, ancient forest is a world away from the rest of South East England.

Also check out the exceptional walk over Hengistbury Head, a coastal headland just outside the Forest at Christchurch.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: -

Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway

  • Exbury, Hampshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Pond with reflection of Azalea bushes trees in background

Experience

Owned by the Rothschild family, this glorious 200-acre garden is home to a world-famous collection of azaleas and rhododenrons, and has its own steam railway.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 4+

Foraging in the New Forest

  • Ringwood, Hampshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Foraging in the New Forest

Experience

Wild Food offer these excellent 3- to 4-hour foraging courses in the Forest, collecting wild herbs, mushrooms, fruit and other vegetables. Tours on Friday-Sunday depart from the Red Shoot Inn.

Adult price: £70

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 3-4 hours

  • Christchurch, Dorset, United Kingdom (UK)

This charismatic and interesting old headland, straddling Christchurch harbour, offers up one of the best short walks in southern England. The 2-mile footpath takes you up onto the headland through wildlife-filled heathland before descending to the Beach Café on the golden sands of Mudeford Spit.

To get home from there you can walk back along the beach beneath the headland, along a tarmac road that runs alongside the harbour, or alternatively hop on the ‘Noddy Train’.

The views are gasp-worthy – across to the Isle of Wight on one side, and over Christchurch Harbour on the other – and the salty sea breeze as refreshing and invigorating in winter as in summer.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 2 hours

  • Beaulieu, Hampshire, United Kingdom (UK)

Famous for the row of Georgian cottages that run down to the river, Buckler’s Hard was originally built in the early eighteenth century, and soon became a national centre of shipbuilding. Several Naval warships were built at the site, including three that fought at the Battle of Trafalgar. In WWII the village was used to build motor torpedo boats.

Now the village is a living museum; one of the cottages has been re-created as a shipwright’s house as it would have been in the 18th century, and there are in-character guided tours of the village in summer. The Maritime Museum gives an insight into this small waterfront hamlet’s illustrious history.

Good for age: 18+