With oodles of footpaths to explore, the New Forest is an ideal place for a family walk. Whether you are looking for a walk that’s buggy friendly, one suitable for preschoolers or longer walks that you can do with older children, there’s plenty of choice.
Here, we’ve selected our top 10 family walks in the New Forest for you and give you a bit of a lowdown on what to expect from the walk:
- Bolderwood Deer Watch Trail
Buggy-friendly and suitable for families with toddlers, this 0.3-mile walk takes you from Bolderwood’s car park and leads you towards the deer-viewing platform. In the summer months, the deer are fed by New Forest Rangers at some time between 12noon and 3pm. The younger members of your family (and let’s face it, the older ones as well!) will love the chance to view these majestic animals.
If after all the deer watching you’ve still excess energy to burn, then there are further walks you can do around the forest at Bolderwood – just follow the waymarked routes.
- Blackwater: Tall Trees Trail
Take a 1.4-mile walk around Forestry England’s Blackwater Arboretum. Here, you will find a small but nationally important collection of trees. See which you can spot. Sensory boards are at various points along the trail giving you more information about some of the trees here.
- Ashlett Creek to Calshot Spit
Start at Fawley town centre and follow along the historic inlet of Ashlett Creek as you journey with views across Southampton Water – you may even be lucky enough to spot some of the cruise ships if they are docked in Southampton. This 2.8-mile route is also great for bird spotting with the mudflats making excellent feeding grounds for a variety of waders.
- Burley Village Walk
Be in awe at the tales of witches and folklore as you follow this 4.2-mile circular walk which starts off in the centre of Burley, then skirts around the village. This walk does involve a long but gentle uphill section so is probably suited for families with older children.
- Beaulieu to Buckler’s Hard
This is one of the most popular family walks in the New Forest. Start off at Beaulieu and follow the predominantly gravelled level path as it skirts the beautiful Beaulieu River towards Buckler’s Hard. 2-miles each way, spend time at Buckler’s Hard exploring this historic maritime village. You’ll also find a family-friendly pub and ice cream stop here. On your return to Beaulieu, you are often likely to see donkeys ambling around the village centre, particularly outside of the Montagu Arms Hotel.
- Ashurst Stroll
Start this walk off at Ashurst railway station. This 2.8-mile walk offers a gentle stroll through the Forest with opportunities to spot New Forest ponies grazing. Along the route, there are a couple of pubs so if you fancy a pit stop for a spot of food or drink then you can do so.
- Whitefield Moor
Join onto either the short loop (1-mile) or longer loop (1.6-miles). Both loops start from Whitefield Moor car park. Expect to see a variety of habitats along the way including heathland and bog as well as the Ober Water stream.
Spend some time on the Ober Water foot bridge – a great place to look out for wildlife such as kingfishers and if you are lucky, red
- Godshill and Castle Hill
Begin this 2.6-mile walk off outside the Fighting Cocks Pub in Godshill. The route takes you on quiet woodland and field paths and offers stunning views across the Avon Valley. The walk can also be extended with a detour to Castle Hill iron age hillfort.
A great walk you can do if staying at nearby Sandy Balls Holiday Village!
- Lymington Town Trail
This 2-mile walk is packed with history. Make a stop at St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery (which regularly hosts family-friendly events and exhibitions through the school holidays). Follow along the historic High Street and then follow the sea wall passing the Lymington Sea Water Baths. The sea wall is also a very popular spot for some crabbing! Look out over the marina at the array of yachts and boats before looping back to your starting point.
- Keyhaven Marshes
Pick up some of the long-distance Solent Way, on this small 3.5-mile section following the coastal path and sea wall beside the Keyhaven Marshes. A popular spot for birders, look out for bird species including widgeon, redshanks and curlews. Along the route, you can not only expect to have views across the marshes and nature reserve, but vistas across the Solent to the Isle of Wight too.
This is just a taster of some of the family friendly walks you can do in the New Forest. Find other family walks or use a map to plan your own. Do also look out for guided family walks offered by Wild New Forest or as part of the annual New Forest Walking & Cycling Festival (dates for 2023 are yet to be confirmed but the festival usually takes place towards the end of October until early November).