Thank goodness, then, for the beautiful New Forest where – in addition to all our lovely open countryside and roaming ponies - we all have attractions, indoors and out, to suit EVERY type of family.

1. Buckler's Hard…for river cruises and amazing maritime history

Once a thriving shipbuilding village where ships for Nelson's fleet at Trafalgar were built, Buckler's Hard is now a tranquil haven untouched by the passage of time.

Discover the history of the village in the Maritime Museum, step inside a historic shipwright's cottage, or wander down that iconic High Street to watch the boats sailing by on the Beaulieu River, where you can catch a river cruise.

Children can try the tricky business of caulking, learn to tie a bowline and press a button to listen to a traditional sea shanty.

During the summer holidays you can get closer still to this historic time, because guided tours are lead by living history character.

2. Paulton’s Park – for rollercoaster rides and Peppa Pig Fans

From the Velociraptor to the Boulder Dash, to the Flight of the Pterosaur, there are more than 70 rides at Paulton’s, from the frankly terrifying to the cutest ever.

Not only does this guarantee you’ll find a new favourite, it also means that everyone will enjoy the day, from tots to teens to even granny.

With a Water Kingdom, clean water ‘Muddy Puddles’ to splash in and prehistoric dinosaurs lurking, the entertainment is full-on.

Your visit includes entry to Britain’s only Peppa Pig World, with two new rides this season. And with the Little Africa section giving youngsters the chance to meet a meerkat, as well as lots of other amazing and exotic creatures, your only problem will be fitting it all in.

3. The National Motor Museum and Palace House at Beaulieu… For ultimate petrolheads (and people who like beautiful gardens)

From Sir Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird to Del Boy Trotter’s Reliant Regal, to cars from James Bond movies and some of the original Montagu collection, we promise you’ll find one vehicle amongst the more than 200 that you’ll want to bring home with you.

Kids will love the sheer quirkiness of the special exhibition, The Art of Kustom, featuring a host of cars crazily remodeled by Dorset Kustom ace, Andy Saunders.

But make sure you leave plenty of time to visit historic Palace House, with its authentic Victorian kitchen, plus the chance to visit Edward, Lord Montagu's library, where you can enter through a false bookshelf door.

Outside is just as grand; the children will enjoy riding the monorail around the grounds, before checking out Alice in Wonderland’s topiary and taking lunch in the restaurant, or picking the perfect spot for a picnic.

4. Longdown Activity Farm near Ashurst ...for lovers of baby farm animals

If your young ones are besotted by tractors they’ll adore Longdown which offers – weather permitting – a brilliantly bumpy tractor and trailer ride. Other farmy fun includes a Straw Den and a trampoline barn and in between you can learn about how a farm works and even help to care for the animals in the new Animal Encounter Barn.

Bottle-feed goats, calves and ducks, then take turns to meet donkeys, alpacas, chicks, Pygmy goats, Kunekune pigs and cows before enjoying a game of pitch and putt, or fun in the outside play area.

5. Hurst Castle near Milford-on-Sea…for history and being beside the seaside

Whether you walk the mile-and-a-half to the end of Hurst Spit or take the lovely little ferry ride from Keyhaven, you are in for a historical treat.

Built by Henry VIII to defend us against the French, the castle has found itself playing host to the doomed Charles 1 in 1648, and also working as a fortress again, to protect us from the French (again!). It’s also played an important part in guarding the Solent during World War II.

Now it’s a fascinating place to visit, and when you’ve finished creeping about its forbidding interior, take a turn about the foreshore and the café.

(For even more fun, The New Forest Paddle Sport Company offers a two-hour, instructor-led stand up paddleboard or kayak along the Keyhaven river, paddling to Hurst Castle.​ Once at the castle you will have access to explore and your experience will also include lunch or afternoon tea and your ferry return trip.​)

6. New Forest Heritage Centre, Lyndhurst… for finding out more about this amazing area

Why is it called the New Forest when it’s so old? Why do the ponies look wild but all belong to someone? And just who was Brusher Mills?

These – and almost any other New Foresty question you’d like to ask – can be answered with a visit to the heritage centre.

Set in the heart of the national park in Lyndhurst, you'll find a fascinating museum, gift shop, reference library and exhibition gallery and friendly staff to answer all your questions about the New Forest.

The museum is packed full of information and fun activities. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Beaulieu Road pony sales and step back in time into a traditional cob cottage. Young ones will adore learning how to detect animals in the Poo Corner game, interact with the Family Fun Tree, marvel at gigantic creepy crawlies and learn the gentle art of bark rubbing, before you all enjoy a cold drink or cuppa in the Tip, Leaf & Bean Café.

And remember, over the summer the centre is running various Discovery Days for children, so contact them for details of how to book in.

7. New Forest Wildlife Park, Ashurst…for budding young Attenboroughs

Unlike most zoos, this one concentrates on the creatures that are living all around us in Europe – but which most of us will never see.

From otters to red deer, to hedgehogs to the Eurasian lynx, you’ll be able to spot some of the most endangered and fascinating animals on our continent.

If you’ve ever wondered what a wild boar looks like (pretty magnificent, actually!) or a Scottish wildcat, now’s your chance. You can watch them being fed and ask their keepers’ questions.

But don’t forget to leave time, too, to enjoy the Park’s Go Wild adventure playgrounds and let off a little steam.

8.  Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum near New Milton – for lovers of motorbikes and engineering

Anyone who has ever admired a motorbike will adore this museum because it houses one of the largest collections of speed machines in the world, amassed by a motorcycling legend.

It’ll bring back memories for granny and granddad (perhaps of those days careering around in a sidecar!) or maybe for mum and dad, with the Triumphs and Nortons, including the 1905 Norton 500cc Peugeot Engine motorcycle, the oldest known Norton in the world.

And, when you’ve finished marvelling at the Miller collection, there’s an animal collection to make friends with, and a children’s play area, as well as the on-site tea-rooms for something nice to eat.

9.  Adventure Wonderland near Bournemouth airport – for lovers of non-stop thrill rides and fun

From Battle Boats, to Flying Elephants, the thrill of the Ghostly Galleon and the Jungle Falls log flume, you are certain to find a new favourite amongst all the rides at this popular park.

It’s Alice in Wonderland themed, so do expect to get lost in the Maze – as well as meeting a few of the characters, from the scary Red Queen, to Alice herself.

The park is split into ‘lands’; Adventureland, Wonderland – including their Turbo Teacups - and an aerial glide, Cuddle Corner Farm and an airport viewing gallery.

And no one will want to miss the Wild Thing! indoor play centre – perfect if the rain comes in.

10.   Dorset Heavy Horse Centre near Verwood…for everyone who loves horses and playing outdoors

This award-winning park is recognised as both a family attraction and conservation centre for over 20 rare breed heavy horses.

You’ll learn how these beautiful beasts have served humans for thousands of years; from hauling barges to carrying soldiers into battle, to ploughing the land for our food.

Visitors can enjoy scenic carriage rides, pony riding and the chance to even drive a tractor!

You can make friends with the farm animals and explore the vintage vehicles and displays; from a gypsy caravan to a barge to the weird and wonderful contraptions and wagons horses have had cause to haul.

Add to this the zip wires, children’s play area and the straw barn with the mega drop slide, and the day will just race away.




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