Our guide to the top 10 must-see & do activities in the New Forest National Park
Covering 140,000 acres, the New Forest’s heathlands, moors and coastal wonders are a hit with tourists and residents alike.
Downtime is precious, so when you’re visiting somewhere as vast and beautiful as the New Forest, it’s understandable that you want to make the most of it.
Interested in sightseeing? Want to find wholesome family activities? There’s a little bit of everything for everyone. For your next trip, we’ve curated a list of some of the best attractions — so that you don’t have to!
The best activities, things to see and do in the New Forest
While the New Forest is home to the most spectacular scenery, it’s filled with unique attractions that cater to everyone’s interests — whether that’s vintage automobiles, Peppa Pig, watersports, historic coastal fortresses, steam railways or spotting native ponies!
1. New Forest Lavender Gardens — a gorgeous, vibrant flower garden
Deemed a ‘garden heaven’ by locals, the New Forest Lavender Gardens are home to not just lavenders but also a variety of roses, herbs, and perennials.
Come tread along one of several footpaths or sit and relax on a bench, soaking up the colourful, fragrant haven.
A local favourite and family-owned, the Lavender Gardens also offer a café and nursery. Try one of their homemade soups and sandwiches, all made from home-grown ingredients. Or perhaps enjoy a cuppa or lavender-flavoured treat in their tea room.
If you are interested in taking something home, visit the nursery, where you can find intricate garden sculptures and flower bunches.
Only a 5 minute drive from our gorgeous Green Hill Farm Holiday Park, the New Forest Lavender Gardens are a must.
2. Salisbury — a historic, grand mediaeval cathedral city
Welcoming travellers since 1227, Salisbury is teeming with history, creativity, and lively culture.
The Salisbury Cathedral stands in the centre of the city; historic houses, museums, independent and unique shops border the cathedral.
History is all around you in Salisbury: the best-maintained Magna Carta manuscript, Rifles Military Museum, and Salisbury Museum are all located here. Stroll through the city and take in some of the finest historic houses dating back centuries, such as the Mompesson House.
Shopping in Salisbury is not like any place. You will find independent stores and shops, where you can purchase locally crafted, unconventional products and collectibles. Catch the Charter Market every Tuesday and Thursday to see an even larger display of unique items to bring home!
Salisbury holds the Purple Flag — a sign for a great night out. Grab a bite or drink at the diverse selection of pubs, restaurants, and cute tea and coffee shops.
For history fanatics, for sightseers, and for families a day trip to Salisbury is perfect — only a quick 20-minute drive from Green Hill Farm.
3. Paultons Park — the theme park with the largest Peppa Pig World in the world
Having opened in 1983, this beloved attraction has had nearly 40 years of experience in entertaining families and is now home to nearly 70 rides — the self-styled ‘UK’s favourite family theme park’!
We certainly think Paultons Park lives up to its own billing. As well as being home to none other than Peppa Pig World, you’ll be walking through history, as the estate can be traced back to 1086. Originally a manor, this land has also withstood throughout the second world war.
Rides include Grampy Rabbit’s Sailing Club, George’s Dinosaur Adventure, Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Flight and many more — featuring everyone’s favourite characters from the smash hit TV show. Kids will be swept up in the buzz of rides and the chance to meet some of their favourite faces from the show, who are around and available for photo opportunities most days (subject to change).
If you’re making a day of Paultons Park and taking in Peppa Pig World, take some spare clothes as there’s a chance to splash about in the Muddy Puddles Splash Park! As well as nine themed rides, there is also an indoor playzone to explore.
It's a full and exciting day out for the whole family and there’s plenty to see, do and enjoy. You can stop and refuel at Daddy Pig’s Cafe or the Queen’s Kitchen and then when it’s time for dessert, you can pay a visit to Miss Rabbit’s Ice Cream Parlour.
With roller coasters, animal exhibits, and water parks, Paulton’s got something for everyone in the family — and it’s only a 10-minute drive from Green Hill Farm.
4. National Motor Museum — lose yourself exploring automobiles of the ages
The National Motor Museum is definitely worth a visit, especially for the car-loving members of the family. And even if you’re not a vintage motorsport enthusiast, the quaint village surroundings of Beaulieu will surely be to your taste.
With constant new collections coming through the door, you can explore the exquisite styles of automobiles from different countries throughout Europe and Asia. Not only known for its admirable beauty, on weekends you can see some of the cars in action, as some of the sports cars are taken on demonstration runs for everyone to enjoy.
hailed as ‘one of the finest collections of cars, motorcycles and motoring memorabilia in the world’. The museum boasts over 280 vehicles, coupled with a whole host of impressive items that help, together, to tell the story of motoring.
Celebrating its 50th year, the museum holds some of the world’s most impressive motoring memorabilia, ranging from film and photography, through to motoring objects, art and of course a world renowned collection of vehicles from bikes to vintage and contemporary cars.
Depending On when you visit, there is also a rolling programme of changing exhibits — including incredible rare collections such as the James Bond ‘No Time to Die’ Bond in Motion collections (opening times and length of exhibits are subject to change, so please check before you book).
If you love cars but feel like you might need to keep the rest of your party happy elsewhere, it’s possible to buy a multi-attraction ticket for the museum that gives you access to the National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, Palace House and Gardens, Little Beaulieu, Beaulieu Abbey, The Secret Army Exhibition and unlimited rides on the monorail — an ideal way to make a full day of it!
5. Longdown Activity Farm — for one-of-a-kind agricultural fun
We highly recommend taking the kids to enjoy Longdown — a fun-filled family activity that includes animals, trampolines and a produce farm.
The petting farm is sure to amaze the little ones, with everyone having the opportunity to enjoy feeding baby goats and calves as well as playing with donkeys, alpacas, cows and other awesome beasts. For those slightly more grown up, don’t miss the outdoor trampolines, go-karts, tractor-riding and mini golf.
Be sure to also check out their locally produced harvest shop, including fresh meat, eggs, and other dairy products.
6. New Forest Water Park — for totally unique aqua adventure
Whether you’re an intrepid watersports expert or complete newbie, the New Forest Water Park promises an incredible family activity to enjoy and take sport activities to a new level.
These environmentally-friendly activities include cable wakeboarding, kayaking, camping — as well as the UK’s first and largest obstacle Aqua Park. With floating obstacles, inflatables, slides, hurdles and swings, you’re sure to enjoy a day full of wipeouts.
Image credit: newforestwaterpark.co.uk
7. Native pony spotting — a particularly popular way to spend time in the New Forest
For those not in the know, the New Forest’s wild open moors are home to over 5,000 native ponies, who’ve inhabited the heathlands for over 2,000 years.
While they may appear wild owing to the fact they are dispersed all over the region, they are in fact owned by locals and the care of them is shared between owners and New Forest Agisters. The care and regulation of the ponies is steeped in fascinating history and dates back to the 13th century.
Spotting them isn’t too difficult as there are so many of them, but we advise taking your time, a picnic and being ready to explore, taking the sights as you go. It is important to be aware that the ponies have right of way at any part of the roads within the New Forest, so be especially aware of your speed and keep a close eye on your surroundings at all times.
Naturally, as they roam, there is no guarantee as to where they’ll be at any one time, but their numbers mean if you set aside some time, you’ll stumble across some eventually and the surroundings are so beautiful, it’s always a great day out.
You can find out more about the best places to spot them including some beautiful villages like Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Adhurst, Burley and more — so even if you’re unlucky, you’ll still be taking in some incredible sights.
The rules of the New Forest and the area’s incredible rich history in our guide to spotting the ponies!
8. Hurst Castle— a touch of history and a coastal stroll
This English Heritage site is well-worth a visit for history fans. Not only does Hurst Castle offer a rich day with a glimpse into Henry VIII’s England, it boasts some of the most spectacular sea views, sitting over the entrance to the Solent.
These panoramic views are worth a visit alone, but there’s more; the castle was known as one of the most advanced artillery fortresses in England and its excellent preservation makes it a unique day out.
Visit the Tudor keep where Charles I was rumoured to have been kept in 1648, climb the stairs to the top of the keep to enjoy panoramic views of the Needles Passage to the Isle of Wight — it’s not to be missed.
If you’ve made the trip here, we suggest enjoying the view and then taking in the sights and independent shops and eateries around the village green. Saltwater café-bar has a rustic coastal decor and a broad menu that caters from breakfast through to the afternoon.
If you fancy taking in some more of the sights on foot, you can park up at Keyhaven, walk along the coast and out to Hurst Castle and then walk back, or if you fancy an extra adventure, get the ferry back across the water. The ferry ride is known to provide wildlife fans with the opportunity to see a variety of birds and wildlife.
9. The Solent Way— choose your adventure on this 60-mile route
This stunning route — stretching from Milford-on-Sea to Emsworth — is split into eight sections so you can enjoy as much or as little as your energy and time allows, perhaps complete with sea views on one of the New Forest’s incredible beaches!
The good thing about these sectioned off walks of this trail is that you can choose your own and even take along a four-legged friend to keep you company.
Owing to just how much ground this route covers, if you were to walk it all, you’d get an incredible range of sights and sounds; from quaint harbours and bustling sea fronts, to yachts and traditional seafront pubs. The towns and stunning villages along the way offer everything from refreshments to incredible antique-hunting opportunities.
You can follow the Solent Way from Milford-on-Sea, following the especially marked signs which feature a green arrow and a tern. Choose a section or two and enjoy taking it all in. They’re as follows:
Milford-on-Sea to Lymington — approx 9 miles (3–4 hours)
Lymington to Beaulieu — approx 10 miles (4–5 hours) -
Beaulieu to Hythe — approx 6 miles (2–3 hours)
Hythe to Hamble — approx 7 miles (2–3 hours)
Hamble to Hillhead — approx 5 miles (2 hours)
Hillhead to Gosport — approx 8 miles (3–4 hours)
Gosport to Langstone — approx 12 miles (5 hours)
Langstone to Emsworth — approx 3 miles (1–2 hours)
There are endless opportunities to stop for both attractions and refreshments along the way, including Hurst Castle, Beaulieu’s National Motor Museum, Buckler’s Hard Maritime Museum, Netley Abbey, Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve and much more.
10. Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway— 200 acres of stunning gardens to bask in
A century in the making, Exbury Gardens is a stunning collection of landscaped woodland and, contemporary, formal and wildflower gardens that change with the seasons. Resplendent at any point in the year.
In summer it is a must to explore the grounds and take in the dragonfly pond. This huge ornamental pond has been curated to ensure it encourages the growth of native aquatic plants, and as the name suggests, plenty of insects and dragonflies. Here you can spot the stars of the show and learn about how to encourage dragonflies into your own gardens.
Spring is an ideal time to enjoy the gardens at their best and in full bloom. The array of colours in April and May particularly is astounding and will feature flowers such as camelias, magnolias and of course daffodils. The top spots for a mind blowing blast of spring colour include the Azalea Bowl, Home Wood, River of Gold Daffodil Meadow and the Sundial garden.
One of the main attractions, aside from the flowers and stunning garden design, is the handy and ever-popular steam railway. This narrow gauge steam railway departs from its own replica Victorian station, aptly named Exbury Central. Travellers on the railway whiz around the dragonfly pond and through the summer lane garden. It is now possible to alight at certain points to enjoy the gardens and hop back on later.
Stay a while in the New Forest…
If you’re finding it hard to leave then you are invited to experience it all with a luxury lodge, holiday home or glamping getaway at Green Hill Farm Holiday Village — our stunning park located at the heart of the New Forest National Park.
We even have a range of stunning holiday homes and luxury lodges for sale if you were wanting to make the ultimate commitment to the New Forest!