With its beautiful heathlands and ancient woods, there are loads of gorgeous things for nature-lovers to see when they holiday in the New Forest. And from museums and river cruises to pretty seaside towns, you’ll never run out of places to explore.
If you’re starting to plan your New Forest activities, check out our list of the top things to do. Our guide to the New Forest should give you plenty of inspiration too.
Take an open-top bus through the park
Take a trip on an open-top bus to see as much of the New Forest National Park as you can. This hop-on-hop-off bus is a great way to explore various villages and attractions if you want to leave the car at home. First-time visitor? Jump off at the New Forest Centre for a cup of tea and a bit of history.
Explore the grounds of Beaulieu Abbey
Take a relaxing stroll through the grounds of Beaulieu Abbey. Built 800 years ago – and destroyed on the orders of King Henry VIII in 1538 – these ruins have been well preserved and form part of a series of attractions owned by ancestors of the Montagu family. Once you’ve explored the history of the Cistercian monks at the on-site exhibition, make time to explore the stunning Palace House, once the gatehouse of the Abbey.
Learn how to forage
Some of the best New Forest activities for nature lovers and foodies interested in sustainable living are the foraging and wild food courses run by Hedgerow Harvest. Their fungi walk is a great thing to do in the New Forest in Autumn when the forest is at its most colourful. And these three-hour sessions give you the lowdown on how to tell the difference between edible and inedible mushroom species. It’s aimed at beginners and you may get the chance to cook what you’ve found.
Visit the National Motor Museum
Fancy yourself as a car aficionado? Visit the National Motor Museum, set within the stunning Beaulieu parkland. A great family day out, this famous museum showcases some of the world’s finest cars and motorcycles, from a vintage 1922 Aston Martin to Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. Check out the venue’s excellent calendar of car shows too.
Cruise along the Beaulieu River
If you’re keen to tick off one of the most relaxing New Forest attractions, book yourself onto a cruise along the Beaulieu River. You’ll learn about the river’s wildlife and interesting heritage as it’s one of the few privately owned rivers in the world.
Visit the maritime museum at Buckler’s Hard
The maritime museum is just one of many attractions you’ll find in Buckler’s Hard. Located on the banks of the Beaulieu River, this historic hamlet was once a Naval base of Admiral Nelson and today it maintains a locked-in-time charm. Admire the Georgian cottages and explore the stories of the Battle of Trafalgar warships that were built here.
Go paddle-boarding at sunset
Head south of the New Forest to Milford on Sea for a spot of stand up paddle-boarding (SUP) at the New Forest Paddle Sport Company. The lessons here are ultra-relaxed, and their Sunset Picnic is definitely one for the romantics. This private session for two includes a tranquil paddle by the English Heritage Site of Hurst Castle and – as the name suggests – a dreamy sunset picnic on the beach.
Visit the New Forest’s deer sanctuary
For the best sightings of the New Forest’s fallow deer, head to the Bolderwood deer sanctuary where you can enjoy cycling trails, stop for picnics and occasionally spot deer along its various walking trails. It’s a great family day out and the kids will love spotting these shy creatures from the viewing platform where they come to feed.
Go on a ‘deer safari’
If you’re looking for unique things to do in the New Forest, why not take your gang on a deer safari at Sopley Farm? Hop on the back of a tractor and you’ll be taken on a scenic drive through the beautiful Burley Park where you can spot the native red deer and (if you’re lucky) perhaps the more elusive fallow deer. Deer safaris run through the summer holidays and Sopley Farm has a lovely farm shop and fruit picking site.
Take the Tall Trees Trail
If you’re looking for a hike that’s not too taxing, take the 1.5-mile ramble known as the Tall Trees Trail, which takes in Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. Every visitor in the New Forest wants to see this idyllic narrow road which leads to the mansion known as Rhinefield House as it’s bordered by some mighty impressive giant redwoods and Douglas firs, planted here in the 1800s. Come summer, this area is filled with vibrant rhododendrons and azaleas too.
Want to research the New Forest a little more? We’ve got a travel guide written on this lovely destination, too.