Explore the New Forest and Hampshire
There are few other places in England where the ancient landscape has remained so unchanged. In 1079 when William The Conqueror named the area his ‘new hunting forest', little could he imagine that nearly 1,000 years later his ‘Nova Foresta' would still retain its mystery and romance.
The special heritage of the New Forest is one of the many reasons why people come to visit us. The sense of history in the New Forest remains strong and the ancient system established by William The Conqueror to protect and manage the woodlands and wilderness heaths is still very much in place today through the efforts of our Verderers, Agisters and Commoners.
Tales of witchcraft, ghouls and folklore abound in the small New Forest village of Burley plus you can discover the long history of smuggling at Lymington, the monastic and Victorian influences at Beaulieu and maritime history at Buckler’s Hard.
The New Forest National Park covers an area of 219 square miles (566 square kilometres) and predominantly falls within the geographic county of Hampshire. A small area of Wiltshire forms part of the National Park, encompassing the villages of Landford, Nomansland and Lover. Equally, a small area of Dorset towards Christchurch. The National Park is managed by the New Forest National Park Authority, who are based in Lymington.
Whether you are taking part in some of our activities, visiting our towns and villages or going to one of our many visitor attractions, exploring the New Forest will leave you invigorated.
Nature in the New Forest
Wildlife and nature is fundamental to the area and the ancient woodland brings with it not only some unique flora and fauna but the opportunity to see ponies, donkeys, pigs and cattle roaming free. Anyone with an eye for nature will enjoy wandering the footpaths, photographing the landscape or simply stepping away from the bustle of modern day living.
Our iconic New Forest ponies roam the open heathland and can even be spotted strolling down some of our high streets - now that’s not your everyday encounter, is it? In fact, there are around 5,000 of them in the New Forest so you won’t go too long before seeing one!
The New Forest National Park is also home to five species of deer: fallow, roe, red, sika and muntjac and there are some fantastic opportunities to see some of them at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary and on the Burley Deer Safari.
Discover our native reptiles at the New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst or on a guided snake walk with a registered ecologist.
Our flora and fauna can be enjoyed in the heathland, woodlands and along our coastline. There are also several nature reserves that provide havens for wetland birds and other species of animals. Look out for a range of nature-based events and activities taking place at some of our nature reserves and animal attractions.
Discover the New Forest coastline
Salt Marshes, sand and seabirds. It's not what people normally associate with the New Forest because... it's a forest, right?
As well as the 193,000 acres of woodland in the New Forest, we also get to enjoy over 40 miles of coastline.
Enjoy far-reaching views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight and the Needles from some of our towns and villages on the beautiful New Forest coastline.
The tranquillity of this coast and the inaccessibility of much of the foreshore are what keep the wildlife coming back. This includes wildfowl, egrets, herons, birds of prey and, of course, the famous New Forest Ponies who can occasionally be glimpsed rolling in sand-patches on our isolated beaches.
For those who want to get closer still, there are plenty of companies to help you make the most of this secret coast with wonderful watersports and sailing activities.
Explore the New Forest towns and villages
Whilst you’re in the New Forest make sure you visit as many of our delightful towns and villages as you can! From the cobbled streets of Lymington to the quiet traditional village of Burley, with its interesting history of witchcraft. There is plenty to do, places to eat and sights to see in our New Forest towns and villages!
Our market towns of Ringwood, Hythe, New Milton and Lymington bustle with the arrival of their weekly markets and visitors can enjoy the maritime feel of Milford on Sea, Barton on Sea, Keyhaven and Buckler’s Hard.
The village of Beaulieu is picture-perfect, where donkeys and ponies roam past tea rooms and independent shops. It is also home of course to the National Motor Museum, Palace House and the remains of Beaulieu Abbey, offering a history dating back over many centuries.
For a spot of shopping then look no further than Lymington. Its wide Georgian High Street is lined with boutiques, some big name stores and lots of independent retailers. Nearby New Milton is also perfect for a bit of retail therapy and a coffee!
At the heart of the New Forest, and also known locally as the ‘capital’ of the forest is Lyndhurst. Here, you will find the New Forest Heritage Centre with its museum, exhibition space and library - offering a fascinating insight into the history and culture of the New Forest.
Both Brockenhurst and Sway are situated on the mainline railway from London Waterloo. From both of these villages the forest is right on your doorstep. Enjoy walks and bike rides right from the village centres.
Walkers will also enjoy the Avon Valley Path as it passes from Salisbury through to Fordingbridge before heading on towards Christchurch in Dorset. Fordingbridge makes a delightful stop with riverside pubs and a thriving community. Plus if you fancy taking part in some of our water sports, there’s the New Forest Water Park just a short distance away.
Take a look at our town and villages pages and discover more about the history and characteristics of the area, plus useful information on what you can see and do in each of them, where you can eat as well as places to stay.
Help us understand more about visits to the New Forest and complete our
'Enjoying the New Forest' survey.
It should only take a few minutes to complete and you will have the chance to win some amazing prizes from local businesses.