The best things in life are free – find them here in the magical New Forest!

When you’re considering a holiday or day out, cost is frequently a factor in deciding where to go.

That’s one of the things which makes the New Forest one of the best destinations we know – because so many of the wonderful things we have to share won’t cost you a penny to enjoy!

We have more than 140 miles of off-road tracks and low speed-limit roads, where you can enjoy easy and relaxed cycling and see thousands of free-roaming ponies, perfect for families or those simply wishing to enjoy a leisurely ride at their own pace.

Walking couldn’t be easier, too. Our shortest routes are less than a mile, our longest join onto the Solent Way and Avon Valley Walk, two of the south’s best-loved long-distance paths.

In the New Forest you can walk with history (to see World War II airfields and the spot where a King was fatally wounded), walk with beasts (the hundreds of ponies, cattle and donkeys and, in the autumn, roaming Pannage Pigs), and walk with beautiful bluebells in the spring.

We have more than 40 miles of beautiful coast to explore – take a hike along Hurst Spit and you’ll see the Isle of Wight so close you feel you could touch it.

Or why not spend a day really getting to know some of our country parks and wildlife reserves?

Try Keyhaven Marsh near Lymington, for amazing bird-life, or Avon Heath Country Park near Ringwood, which has plenty of space for the kids to run around in. Or pack up a picnic and enjoy it on the beach at Lepe Country Park.

Take your young ones to jump in the puddle in their wellies along the paths through the forest or play Pooh Sticks from one of the bridges – Puttles near Rhinefield is great for this.

Park for free (although there is a donation box where money is always welcome) at Bolderwood car park and walk or cycle the Ornamental Drive before walking to the Deer Sanctuary.

Bolderwood is one of the best places to see these shy creatures as there is a purpose-built platform which overlooks a large meadow. The platform is just a short walk from the car park and if you visit from April to September you can see the deer being fed by the rangers each day.

There are lots of free events in the New Forest too, including the fantastic Lymington Seafood Festival! Check out loads of forest events on our website and have a look to see if they're free...

We’ve lots of wonderful attractions where you don’t have to pay, or where entry is by donation, too.

New Forest Heritage Centre at Lyndhurst, the Forest’s ‘capital’, is free to enter and will tell you everything you need to know about our wonderful Forest; from its history to its traditions and its wildlife. It’s open from 10am-4pm each day and also runs events and exhibitions.

Furzey Gardens at Minstead is a wonderful woodland garden cared for by people with learning disabilities and they also have a splendid tea room. Entry into the Gardens is by suggested donation.

If you fancy seeing somewhere unique and historic whilst you’re in Lyndhurst, check the Verderer’s website for the free entry days to their ancient – and very beautiful -court building.

Hockey’s Farm in South Gorley near Fordingbridge is another great place to take the kids. See the animals and maybe buy something yummy for dinner from the shop or enjoy a cuppa in their café.

Anyone who loves beautiful flowers (and wonderful food!) will enjoy an amble round Fairweather’s Garden Centre at Beaulieu, especially when it’s accompanied by a visit to Steff’s Kitchen, one of the New Forest’s most popular places to grab a bite.

Finally – and you will have to wait until April because of the hibernation season - the New Forest Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst is a must for anyone who wants to discover more about the shy, fragile reptiles that live in this part of the world. Visitors can safely view lizards, frogs, toads and even Britain’s only venomous snake, the adder at this wonderful venue, where entry is by donation too.

*For more information and ideas about fab free New Forest things to do visit thenewforest.co.uk

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