There are a dozen reasons why you should try a car-free adventure when you visit the New Forest.
But here are three of the best. Firstly, it’s much more environmentally friendly to have a car-free day out!
Secondly, because only bikes – and horses, paddleboards, carriages and your own two legs - can take you to the most magical spots, you’ll see more and discover more, too. The very essence of an adventure, we reckon!
Thirdly, with less cars on the road it will make the New Forest a much safer place for our free-roaming ponies and other animals, as less cars will reduce the amount of road accidents.
So, here’s some fantastic ideas on how you can enjoy a car-free day in the New Forest…
Get on your bike and ride!
If you've got a bike, just check out the routes on our website and you’re good to go.
No bike? We can sort that, too. The following hire shops and centres can help you find the perfect machine for your solo, group or family adventure and they can also sort you with a host of accessories, from kids’ trailers, Dog Kabs (why leave out your furry friend?) and child seats, along with electric bikes, GPS systems and some offer adaptive bikes for the less physically able.
If you’re hiring you’ll want to make a day of it, so here are a couple of routes to get you going:
At 25 miles this is the longest of our routes which you can extend or shorten using off-road tracks and country roads. The route starts in Lyndhurst before going via Minstead and Bolderwood, taking you under the A31 as you finish off in Burley.
This 17.8 mile cycling route is a great way to explore everything the north of the forest has to offer and see some stunning landscapes, too. Begin in Appleslade car park and cycle past some beautiful rolling hills where you can see for miles over heathland and woodland. You will pass by plenty of places to stop for a refuelling of energy from delicious food and drink.
Walk this way
Two wheels are good but, when it comes to adventures, two legs are even better. How else are you going to get right off the beaten track (but still sticking to the paths!), check out the wildlife and discover the hidden pools, streams, and seashores that the New Forest has to offer?
We’ve got lots of great walking routes on our website, including walks that will take you to secret World War II airfields, walks to the scene of a notorious murder, and walks that lead to the grave of Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.
For a real adventure go walking at dusk or dawn – remembering to take all safety precautions – and you’ll see our night-time treasures, starry skies, flittering bats and, if you walk to Bolton’s Bench in Lyndhurst, spectacular sunrises, too.
If you fancy things a bit more organised or educational, Wild New Forest have some excellent guided hikes. Their scheduled New Forest Explorer Walks are typically about 5-8 km long and 2-3 hours duration. If you want to explore parts of the New Forest you haven't visited previously, or want to learn more about seasonal wildlife on a regular route, then these walks are for you!
Their 'Discovery' walks depart from or close to the main hubs of Brockenhurst, Burley, Lyndhurst and Lymington, and provide an excellent introduction to the New Forest as an opportunity to see fantastic scenery and wildlife.
Ride a horse
As a place of ponies, what better way to enjoy the New Forest than on a horse ride?
You can arrange a hack across a variety of landscapes within the Forest, from rolling heathlands, beautiful coastlines to magical woodlands.
Burley Villa School of Riding can take you out onto the open forest to explore our stunning National Park on horse-back. With options for beginners and experienced riders, including English riding, Western riding, livery and riding breaks.
If you fancy doing your own hack, then why not download the British Horse Society’s ‘New Forest Drive Route’?
Fancy something a bit more sedate?
Enjoy a horse drawn carriage ride as it weaves its way through the narrow lanes of the New Forest. Burley Wagon Rides offer carriage days and bespoke journeys for anyone who’d like to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of a carriage.
All aboard the bus!
Hop onboard the New Forest Tour, which is running until September 12 2021. When you see a stop you like, hop-off and get back on later!
No wonder this is such a popular choice for visitors as it gives perfect views of our stunning landscapes, free-roaming animals and wonderful towns and villages. The New Forest Tour provides a hop-on, hop-off service connecting many parts of the New Forest and the tours run daily with three routes to choose from.
You can also enjoy the beautiful sights of the New Forest on Yellow Buses' Buster's New Forest Explorer! This bus travels between Ringwood and Christchurch, through Burley, Bransgore and Highcliffe, with lots of stunning views along the way and plus lots of perfect places to stop off for a trip to a quaint cafe or country pub for delicious local refreshments.
If you want a tour designed just for you through the New Forest, New Forest Platinum Tours offer chauffeur-driven day trips for up to seven passengers. Starting from central Southampton or from the cruise terminal, there are a variety of journeys to choose from, including the popular ‘Heart of the Forest Tour’ which takes in Exbury Gardens, Brockenhurst, Beaulieu, Lyndhurst and Burley. Small group tours and private tours are also available, or visiting specific places that aren’t on the usual tour routes. Standard tour durations start from just one hour (for a taster tour) through to four hours.
Choose to cruise
For a grand adventure, cruise along Southampton Water and The Solent on Steamship Sheildhall, a heritage cargo/passenger steamship, which retains her original machinery and traditional wheelhouse.
You can sail along the private Beaulieu River if you visit the pretty maritime village of Buckler’s Hard. River cruises operate from the jetty at the bottom of Buckler’s Hard’s High Street until the end of October.
And don’t forget the gem that is the Hythe Ferry! Not only could you see some of the majestic liners that dock in Southampton Water, you will also get to take a trip on the original 1920s pier train at Hythe.
The Hurst Castle Ferry operates until October and takes passengers from Keyhaven to Hurst Castle. A popular thing to do is to walk one way of the journey along the Spit and return the other way by booking a single ferry ticket. Passing the salt marshes, you will likely spot some of the area’s magnificent wildlife, including wetland birds and marshland flora. Friendly dogs on leads are also welcome aboard.
Alternative tours on the water
If you are looking to do a spot of sea fishing then there are several boat companies that offer charters or scheduled sea fishing trips from Lymington, Keyhaven and Buckler’s Hard. Or why not paddle to a pub with New Forest Activities? Take a canoe along the Beaulieu River for an ideal way to travel along this beautiful waterway.
Or combine alternative transport with the chance to learn a new activity and hire a paddleboard from The New Forest Paddle Sport Company in Lymington?
*More ideas for car-free adventures can be found here: thenewforest.co.uk