Here in the magical New Forest, we’ve been embracing the Great Outdoors for many years!
Now, with the long days and warm nights of Summer 2022, it’s your turn – here’s how to do it.
Walk or run?
Stepping out on a walk is still the cheapest and easiest way to enjoy all the amazing things we have to offer. Our 140 miles of tracks and footpaths take in some of the Forest’s most magnificent sights; from the deer sanctuary at Bolderwood, to the Ornamental Drive at Rhinefield, to Bolton’s Bench overlooking Lyndhurst.
Image - Summer in the New Forest
Or why not ramp it up and test yourself against one of our longer strides? How about the Sea Air Trail? This walk is 5.5 miles long and begins at the marina and yacht clubs in Lymington, before following part of the Solent Way, passing through Keyhaven nature reserve and onto Keyhaven itself. At nearby Milford on Sea you can either catch a bus back to Lymington or turn around and reverse the journey.
For a real adventure, there’s the 34-mile Avon Valley Walk. Start off in the cathedral city of Salisbury, from where you can hike or run on trail through the beautiful New Forest to the sea at Christchurch.
Cycle or ride?
We have more than 140 miles of off-road tracks and quiet byways where the greatest hazard is a wandering pony, perfect for a bike ride. That’s what makes the New Forest perfect for nervous bikers and the best place to bring child cyclists for a real bicycle adventure.
Image - New Forest Cycling
You don’t even have to own or bring a bike, either, there are many cycle hire shops and centres in the New Forest that will make sure you can hire one that’s right for you and some will even rent you adaptive bikes for those with disabilities, or a little trailer for your dog!
Or get a pony’s eye view of the forest by saddling up with one of our horse riding schools for a trek, either by yourself or by joining a group. Take to the bridleways and tracks crossing our open heathland, pick up some of the coastal routes and soak up the atmosphere.
Paddle or swim?
Whether you’re on a stand-up paddleboard or in a kayak or canoe, trust us – you’ll get a whole different experience of being outdoors. Kayak in the Solent, where you’ll be able to take in all the secret, hidden places of our 43-mile coastline. Book a paddle with The New Forest Paddle Sport Company, where you can spend two hours paddleboarding or kayaking from Keyhaven to Hurst Castle through the stunning salt marshes. Open water swimming is another great way to enjoy the water, including the sea, or our lakes and rivers.
Image - The New Forest Paddle Sport Company
If you want a trad day out with some swimming thrown in, take your pick from the beautiful beaches of Barton on Sea, Milford on Sea, or Lepe, from whose peaceful shore Queen Victoria is said to have first glimpsed Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. (It also has an excellent café!). Venture a little further west and you’ll come to Hordle Cliff beach, accessed from a steep set of steps.
Image - Lepe Country Park
If you fancy a secret beach, cycle or walk to Tanners Lane near Lymington. The beach is minuscule and there’s no parking but, if you’re very lucky, you may be rewarded by the rare sight of the New Forest ponies paddling and rolling on the scrap of sand there as this is one of their secret beaches, too!
Another of our quieter spots is Calshot beach on the forest’s eastern side. The long, shingle spit stretches out into Southampton Water and affords some spectacular views of the Queen liners, if they are moving around.
Inland, take your young ones to the forest and play Pooh Sticks from one of the bridges – Puttles near Rhinefield and Anderwood are great for this.
Image - Anderwood
And remember, you can immediately up the wow factor of any day by the sea by arriving early enough for sunrise or staying long enough to witness the sunset.
Picnic or adventure?
Balmer Lawn, just north of Brockenhurst, is often named as a favourite place for picnickers. Perhaps this is because of the streams – a popular place to see the New Forest ponies, too - or because of the shade of the ancient oaks in this area.
Image - Balmer Lawn Picnic
The National Trust Northern Commons are another great place for a picnic – walk to Robin Hood’s clump on the Ibsley Common trail for shade and amazing views.
Blackwater Woods on Rhinefield drive has picnic tables, in case you don’t want to lunch at ground level and there are also tables at other Forest car-parks on a first-come, first-served basis.
Our beaches are also the most perfect, relaxing locations for a picnic.
Image - Coastal Picnic, New Forest National Park Authority
Bolderwood has a large, designated picnic area amongst the trees and there is also a grassy area - perfect for games like rounders, cricket and football. And Whitefield Moor near Brockenhurst is another beautiful spot, with walks around the nearby Ober Water stream.
If you want to experience the Great Outdoors differently, our amazing activity centres can’t wait to help. Sample the authentic woodland activities at Insight Activities, where you can try archery, axe throwing, crossbow shooting and bushcraft.
Image - Insight Activities
Avon Tyrrell offers over 40 exciting adventures, including a zip wire across the lake, a climbing tower, the chance to kayak or canoe across open waters, or to learn archery.
Watching our wildlife
There are plants and animals here in the New Forest that are rarely glimpsed anywhere else on planet earth. From rare reptiles to beautiful free roaming donkeys and ponies, the New Forest is full of special and unique wildlife.
Image - Grass Snake, Forestry England
Or spend a day really getting to know some of our country parks and wildlife reserves. Try Keyhaven Marsh for amazing bird-life, or wait until dusk and wander round the National Trust’s Northern Commons. This heathland is home rare bats and moths and the European nightjars, which make a haunting ‘churring’ noise as they set off to look for food.
Early morning and late evening are the best times to spot foxes, badgers and the five deer species that live in our magnificent forest. And, if you are prepared to stay up late, you’ll be rewarded with the hooting of the owls and the opportunity to view a million stars in some of the darkest skies in the south.