Picnics are one of the Great British traditions. And no wonder – not only are they the best way we know to eat food (no fuss and formality) they’re also an inexpensive, fun way to spend time outdoors together as a family.

When it comes to picnics, where you eat is as important as what you eat which is why we’ve compiled our own guide to best places to throw down the tartan rug in the New Forest so you’ll always find the one that’s perfect for you.

PS Humans are not the only ones who love picnics! Our roaming ponies, cattle and donkeys love them too – unfortunately. However much they stare, however cute they look, never, ever feed them or let them share. Firstly, human food is bad for them. And if they think they have a chance to eat your lunch they can become aggressive and kick or bite. If they do come too near, shoo them gently away. They’ll soon get the message!

1. Best for…river views – Buckler’s Hard

You’ll have to pay to get in but once you do, remember that there aren’t many places that can beat Buckler’s Hard as a picnic location. Situated on the banks of the Beaulieu River, this tranquil village was once a bustling shipbuilding village where ships for Nelson’s Navy were built. As well as enjoying the beautiful surroundings, visitors can also explore historic cottage displays and discover the fascinating history of the village in the Maritime Museum. For tickets and prices, see the Buckler's Hard website.

2. Best for… lovers of mighty trees – The Knightwood Oak

At more than 500 years old, no wonder the Knightwood Oak is known as the ‘Queen of the Forest’.

If you take the A35 Christchurch road from Lyndhurst for approximately three miles then take the right hand turning signed to Bolderwood, the Knightwood Oak car park is the first car park on the left hand side.

From the car park there’s an easy gravel track which is suitable for wheelchair and pushchair users which will lead to the largest oak tree (7.4m girth) in the New Forest and one of the oldest too. The area is well enclosed which makes it an ideal spot to keep out any curious ponies.

3. Best for… views of the Isle of Wight – Hurst Spit

On the shingle bank the Isle of Wight will look so near you’ll feel you could touch it. Get here by boat (every 20 minutes from Keyhaven) or make the two-mile walk from the beach.

4. Best for …family games – Bolderwood

This New Forest car-park has a large designated picnic area amongst the trees. There is also a spacious grassy area, perfect for games like rounders, cricket and football.

5. Best for …exploring the National Trust commons– Rockford Common

Descend to a tranquil wooded valley at Dockens Water before crossing the stream to Rockford Common. Wet heath and gleaming bogs reveal carnivorous sundews and mysterious mosses. Admire the breath-taking views from Ibsley Common, an area steeped in military history, and visit the Huff Duff (an old directional station) and associated bunker before picnicking at Robin Hood’s Clump on the Ibsley Common Trail for shade and yet more views.

6. Best for…glimpsing ponies on the beach – Tanners Lane

There is almost no parking and very little space so walk or cycle to this special spot, three miles east of Lymington near South Baddesley, where you’ll find a long scrap of sand overshadowed by a tree. If you’re very lucky the ponies may amble down to provide one of the Forest’s rarest sights and take a dip in the sea!

7. Best for…breath-taking gardens – Exbury

You have to pay an entry fee but once inside there’s so much to do and all of it surrounded surrounded by the beauty of these world-renowned gardens. Exbury has two designated picnic areas, one close to Jubilee Pond with its lazy koi carp and hovering dragonflies, and a second close to the Five Arrows Gallery. It’s also convenient for a mid-afternoon cuppa at Mr Eddy’s Tea Rooms.

8. Best for… spotting the great liners – Calshot beach

From the amazing Three Queens (Cunard’s most celebrated liners) and overlooking the route taken by the most famous ship of all, Titanic, Calshot beach is perfect for picnickers who like to see something out on the water while they nibble their sandwiches. It’s got everything from jolly beach huts to views across to the Spinnaker Tower, to a salt marsh teaming with wildlife.


9. Best for…spotting the ponies – Wilverley Enclosure

Due to the area being ploughed and sown with crops during WWII, the grassy fields have now become a popular area for grazing ponies as well as for having summer picnics and playing games. There is a fantastic marked walk through the woodland nearby that is suitable for wheelchair and pushchair users. There are also toilet facilities along with picnic tables.

10. Best for…a picnic like you’ve never had before – Romantic Sunset Picnic and SUP at Keyhaven

You’ll get the hire of two stand-up paddleboards plus an instructor AND a gorgeous seasonal picnic to enjoy after you’ve padded along Keyhaven to the best spot for watching the sun go down. Your food won’t get wet because your instructor will be carrying it and the two of you will be left to enjoy a memorable experience. Then, when you’ve finished, you’ll paddle back by twilight. Cost is £65 per person.