The New Forest’s coastline has always been one of our best-kept secrets.

But not anymore!

We have more than 40 miles of beautiful beaches for families to share, whether you want to hunt for fossils, stand on the shores where Queen Victoria first glimpsed Osborne House, or cool off in the current heatwave.

Best beach for…. a swim. Take your pick from Barton-on-Sea, Milford-on-Sea, or Lepe but ALWAYS remember to check tides, current conditions and seek advice from lifeguards before entering the water.

Best beach for…. nature. The Keyhaven coastal reserve covers nearly 500 acres between the mouth of the Lymington River and the village of Keyhaven. So you’ll have plenty of chance to spot all manner of ducks, wading birds and listen out for curlews. The Solent Way footpath runs along the beach side of the reserve which will give you beautiful views, too.

Best beach for….a fossil hunt. Barton-on-Sea’s the perfect place for a Jurassic lark. Why? Because there’s no need to go near the cliffs (and in any case this is not recommended because of the constant danger of falls and the height of the incoming tide). Happily for the young fossil-hunter, gastropods and shark’s teeth may be found on the foreshore past the sea defences at low tide. And there are plenty of helpful facilities nearby, including a café and loos.

Best beach for….history buffs. (And to watch the sun go down.)  The beach at Lepe may look all wild and windswept. But at low tide you can glimpse the remains of the Mulberry Harbours that didn’t quite make it to the D-Day landings. Lepe is also a shade away from the spot that Queen Victoria is supposed to have stood upon, when she first glimpsed the wooded shoreline of the Isle of Wight which eventually became her home.

Just to the west you can walk past the brooding Watch House, built to help capture smugglers. And remember, too, that this is one of the places from which people would have waved off the Titanic, as she disappeared from our shores for the first and last time. Lepe has its own café, a children’s play area and is also perfect for a picnic, with over a mile of beach and pine fringed cliffs with stunning views across the Solent.

Best beach for….liner spotting.  Calshot beach is a long, shingle spit at the Forest’s eastern end, which stretches out into Southampton Water and affords some spectacular views of the Queen liners, if they are moving around (check online at http://www.southamptonvts.co.uk). It also has a splendid Tudor fortification, built by Henry VIII, and some peaceful bathing, too.

Best beach for…a long walk. Drive to Milford-on-Sea and then amble along the giant shingle arm of Hurst Spit, where you’ll find a cafe with refreshments, a lighthouse, a thrilling fortification and the Isle of Wight so near, you feel you could touch it.

Best beach for…seeing the New Forest ponies. We can’t promise – we never do! – but they’ve been spotted rolling and paddling on the tiny scrap of beach at the end of Tanners Lane near Lymington. The beach is minuscule and the only parking space is on its foreshore, which gets covered by the tide. This means that we can safely say that Tanners Lane is also the best beach to cycle or walk to – because that’s the easiest way to get there!

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