Your guide to the best beaches & coastal hotspots in the New Forest
There’s few better ways to spend a day on holiday than by the sea, and the New Forest has some of the southern coast’s most stunning examples.
Shingle, sand, pebbles — the New Forest has a surprisingly diverse 40-mile stretch of wildlife-rich, dog-friendly coast, ready to cater to any kind of beach day.
For the spontaneous sun-chasers when there’s a last-minute heatwave through to a leisurely day on the sand punctuated by treats and sea-swimming, here’s a few of our favourite coastal spots that you won’t want to miss out on.
The best beaches & coastal spots in the New Forest
The New Forest may not immediately spring to mind when you think about beach days on the southern coast, but this is exactly what makes it special. From Calshot to Milford-on-Sea and Hengistbury, these beaches can often be less crowded, yet no less stunning.
Whether you’re after dog walks, wildlife, history, sand dune chasing or just a classic fish and chip trip to round off a day exploring, there’s a beach for you — as well as the chance to head slightly inland to some lovely coastal towns and villages.
Calshot — don’t discount this shingle beach with plenty to see and do
Calshot is a shingle beach which is famed for its watersports offering and views across the Solent of the Isle of Wight.
However, if you’re seeking a calmer day with a view, don’t let that put you off. The sailing boats and the sight of the ferries coming and going are a soothing way of passing any afternoon, particularly with a picnic! Bring along any of your four-legged friends, too — Calshot is completely pet friendly and is helpfully dotted with poop bins.
After activities on the beach, with any spare time you might want to pay a visit to the nearby Calshot Activity Centre for some more land-focused activities, including climbing and indoor skiing.
There’s still more to see and do, including a visit to the beautiful artillery fort, Calshot Castle, built by Henry VIII to defend the sea passage to Southampton. Now run by English Heritage, you can visit the castle and climb to the top of the keep to take in views of the Solent.
Milford-on-Sea — beach huts for days, the ‘most dog friendly beach’ & much more besides
It might be another shingle beach until low tide, but as the waves retreat you’ll enjoy some beautiful sandy shoreline; there’s plenty of fun and relaxation on offer at Milford. There’s plenty of parking on Hurst Road.
The pebbly shores at Milford have even won the accolade of the ‘most dog-friendly beach in Hampshire’, which takes into consideration facilities, water quality and more — so a must-visit for those with furry pals in tow!
If the tide is high and you fancy exploring, you can stroll along where the beach huts line the shore, take in the views across to the Isle of Wight or enjoy one of many towering cliff-top walks to Barton, whose dog-friendly beach is certainly well worth a visit too.
Or head in the other direction to Hurst Castle — another English Heritage site that’s worth a visit for history buffs. Fans of wildlife, stunning coastal panoramas and that at-one-with-nature feel won’t want to miss the nearby Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes Nature Reserve.
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.
Seafood lovers after something fancy may want to call in at Verveine, a top-rated restaurant with exciting and varied dishes to try. There’s also a range of classic British cuisines on offer at a variety of local bars and restaurants, as well as Italian, Thai and much more — so there’s something for everyone.
Hengistbury Head — a stunning sandy beach (with archaeological and geological significance!)
Enjoy this dramatic headland’s stunning beach and its incredible panoramas across to ‘The Needles’ on the Isle of Wight — the peculiar three stacks of chalk that poke out of the sea.
Once a vantage point for nomadic hunters and then a key trading post during the Iron Age, this jutting headland is of incredible historic and archaeological importance — and still shows some of these signs of ancient settlement.
Much of Hengistbury Head beach is sandy, although some is shingle, backed by sand dunes. There’s no restrictions at all for dogs, so your canine companions can run free. It’s never usually too busy, which is always a bonus!
Accompanying the incredible history and coastal views on your trip to Hengistbury Head are rare birds, animals, plants and insects — it’s also a very diverse habitat boasting a nature reserve. A great spot for a light circular walk.
If you fancy an adventure without the walk, the land train runs throughout summer will take you over to Mudeford Sandbank — be sure to check the Facebook page for the latest information!
Also enjoy a trip to Hengistbury Head Visitors Centre where you can learn all about the nature reserve, the area’s history as well as enjoy a range of interactive displays. You can also try your hand at a variety of activities from kayaking to willow-weaving!
After a bite to eat? There’s usually some sumptuous food on offer at The Beach House — either sit down or enjoy a takeaway made with fresh, local ingredients — definitely worth a reward after a day’s exploring!
Boscombe beach — a little Blue Flag beauty for a bucket-and-spade British beach day
Quieter than Bournemouth though only a mile along the prom, Boscombe is a traditional beach day — think pretty beach huts, shelving sands and a pier. A truly 1950s-inspired resort and a smashing family seaside day out.
As a Blue Flag beach, Boscombe is top tier for cleanliness, water quality, facilities and more. Just park up and stretch your legs along the recently-restored Victorian pier — first opened in 1889 — for panoramic sea views to the Isle of Wight.
Just a quick note for those with pooch pals coming along — dogs are not allowed on some sections of Boscombe beach from 1 May until 30 September, although the section near Fisherman's Walk has no restrictions at all.
If you’re coming to Boscombe, it’s worth exploring the range of activities on offer at the beach, though most are for the summer months — with boulder-climbing, table tennis, mini golf and volleyball for starters, it’s ideal for a sun-chasing family day out when a last-minute heatwave hits! If it’s more your style, there’s time and space for some classic sandcastle building.
There’s ice cream of course, but if you’re looking for something more substantial, then you can try some of the local eateries. The Prom Diner offers a fun, retro diner feel and caters from breakfast, right through to tea time — expect American classics such as burgers mixed with seaside favourites like ham, egg and chips.
If you’re thinking of something different, James and White café-bar offers breakfast and all-day eats but with a broader, more diverse menu to cater to all the family’s needs.
Steamer Point (& Highcliffe beach) — for a wildlife-filled woodland walk rewarded with stunning sea views
Sitting prettily between Friars Cliff and Highcliffe Castle, Steamer Point Nature Reserve is home to a wide range of woodland and aquatic habitats that make the perfect accompaniment as you wind through walking trails to the seafront.
There’s a number of different routes under the treetops punctuated by wildlife ponds — you really feel as close to nature as possible.
There are a number of excellent dedicated picnic spots that provide incredible views of the sea through woodland — a great place to stop for some jam sandwiches, a flask of coffee and smartphone snaps!
It might not take too long to soak up everything Steamer Point and its nature reserve have to offer, so perhaps hop onto Highcliffe beach afterwards, head to the nearby grade I-listed castle or peruse some of the lovely independent shops and cafés in nearby Friars Cliff.
Stay a while in the New Forest
The New Forest’s stretch of coastline may be relatively small, but it’s got its fair few hidden gems.
Experience all the New Forest has to offer on a luxury lodge, caravan, camping or glamping getaway at our beautiful Green Hill Farm Holiday Village location, nestled right at the heart of the New Forest National Park.
Whether you’re planning an extended weekend with the kids or a romantic treat to the treetop canopies of the New Forest, we’ve got your getaway lined up.
Can’t bear to think of leaving? We understand! Luckily, we have a handful of stunning holiday homes and lodges for sale in the New Forest for those considering ownership.