This blog is written to help busy families choose what to do locally. We’ve listed free activities and also ones that come with a cost but are well worth checking out!
Good news is that there’s masses of free stuff to do in the forest. And with a little bit of prep you’ll have an amazing time. (Your washing machine might not tho’).
The Rope Swingers Secret Guide to the New Forest.
All ages should enjoy these swings. Read the guide in full – some are better for little ones.
- 1. The one over the big muddy dip. Norleywood swing by the old red telephone box.
- A favourite and one that’s stood the test of time. You’ll find this swing just off the road in pretty Norleywood village. Find the red post box, opposite the green (the colour, not indoor veg’ plots) houses and just behind it you’ll see a natural dip in the ground. Sometimes it’s full of water in winter. Push off the bank or tree on the far side. There are often donkeys, ponies and cows here too.
From that swing, head off with the telephone box on your left, toward East End village. Keep going for about a half km. At the little humpback bridge with white railings there is a rope swing on your left.
2. The one over the stream by the humpy bridge.
This ones for confident swingers. The stream is slight in summer and gets going in winter. Probably not the best idea to go on it in when the stream is really full.
Who can beat some stream jumping, hide and seek, animal tracking and generally playing around. Read our walks guide here. All are dog friendly.
The Water Splash near Balmer Lawn Hotel also known as ‘The Brockenhurst Beach’.
This is unmissable if you have small children. In summer the stream is broad, shallow, surrounded by grassy banks and trees for climbing. Float things down the stream, dam it, jump it, paddle, splash, bring the dog… It’s lovely. The parking here can be tricky on a hot weekend. Look for the parking area just opposite the entrance to the hotel, the stream is just behind.
Swallows and Amazons beach games on our New Forest Coast… Read on to find out where to go for a free, wild day out…
Money shouldn’t be a big decider for this holiday. You can book a cheap or an amazing place. Swallows and Amazons holidays don’t have to be in big houses next to the sea (clearly that will help though). It’s about parents allowing their children the freedom to explore, make mistakes and find their own solutions in a ‘safe’ place where they can be independent without you ‘big brothering’ them at close hand. The forests and beaches in the New Forest are all free, lovely and ‘safe’ if you’re sensible.
So here’s how to do Swallows and Amazons – without driving to the Lake District, buy or borrow a boat and without other children to create low-key battles with! This guide focus’s on helping kids develop creative play, build confidence at managing themselves in wild place and have fun – without their parents, phones or screens.
Our favourite beach for this wild day out is at Tanners Lane Beach. And the coast further toward Lymington accessed from the footpath that hugs the coast. Read more about our favourite wild beach here.
For family walk with a theme, how about bug hunting from Ladycross car park in amongst the huge oaks. Cycle the trails here for some extra fun.
The New Forest National Park is known for it’s density of beetles. It’s estimated that there are 2,600 kinds of beetles, (65%) of Britain’s c. 4,000 species living here. They love the dense green foliage of the deep forest and construct their homes of twigs, leaf stalks and pine needles. But you won’t see them unless you look for them.
None are dangerous, but all are shy! The best thing to do it look carefully on the sides of the cycle or walking trails and see what you can see. You can also lift up dead wood, part deep tufts of grass, gently turn over piles of dead leaves. You’ll quickly discover lots of crawly things. Read more about this blog here.
Cycling – if you’re bringing bikes
Pay a penny or two…
Perfect for games of hide and seek, a cafe, a 2 mile coastal walk back, crabbing and foraging optional if it’s summer. Read more on our blog here.
Take a boat trip out to a massive castle, a secret (very good) cafe, and a great walk back home. There are masses of dark passages to explore, strange crevices and well signed shell storage bunkers to explore. We love playing hide and seek there. The views from the top are spectacular.
Whatever the weather, come and blow your cobwebs away for this spectacular day out for all the family.
We’re writing this trip to start from the Keyhaven public car park. It’s central in the little hamlet and opposite the Gun Inn. Postcode SO41 0TP
The walk takes you out to Hurst Castle, run by English Heritage. It sits at the very end of Hurst Spit, a geographical oddity, 1.5 miles long, that stretches south, into the Solent toward the Isle of Wight. The Spit divides the choppy Solent waters and creates a calm lagoon which is an excellent site for paddle boarding trips, kayaking and quiet sailing.
Hire Kayaks and potter in Lymington Harbour:
Hire from the Boat Chandlery opposite the Puffin Cruise sales hut at Old Town Quay in Lymington. It’s lovely to potter around the harbour and see the activity. There is great crabbing from the Quay for anyone not brave enough to go out. Or just sit and eat ice cream? The pub The Ship Inn do food all day long and have a good deck facing the harbour so you can watch the kayakers.
01590 672784 www.yachtmailchandlery.com/
Splash your cash…
Longdown Activity Farm:
There’s farmyard fun for the whole family at Longdown Activity Farm, in Ashurst. Join in with a daily schedule of hands-on activities that include bottle-feeding kid goats and calves, the Animal Encounter Experience, and duck feeding (social distancing rules will apply). There are lots of friendly animals to meet including donkeys, alpacas, cute chicks, Pygmy goats, Kunekune pigs, cows, and many more. Hours of entertainment can be had with the biggest struggle getting your kids back in the car to leave!
New Forest Wildlife Park:
Next door to Longdown Activity Farm you can find a whole host of other exciting animals ranging from wolves to Scottish wildcats to otters. The park is huge and there are so many animals to see and learn about. Great for educating the kids about more unknown and endangered native animals.
If you’re hiring bikes….
Many parts of the forest, hidden to the motorist, are easily accessible by bicycle on designated gravel tracks.
Once you get into the open forest, there are family friendly, safe off-road and gentle cycle routes, with tracks through the open heathland and sheltered woods. More active folk can cycle to nearby villages such as Lyndhurst, Burley and Rhinefield. If you do not have your own bikes, Cycle hire is available all year round.
Cyclexperience are a great company. Our guests get 10% off. Not only can you hire excellent choice of bikes right beside the train station, but you can also get the bikes delivered to your door. They have an extensive selection of routes with good maps, so enjoying the National Park and escaping into the woods has never been easier.
New Forest Activities can also rent bikes and our guests also get 10% off. Just ask at booking.
Both companies may drop bikes to your house if you ask them nicely and they can fit it in.
We love riding at New Forest Escapes and are often found out and about and covered in horse hair. The riding here is superb and it’s lovely way to see the National Park and the ponies, cattle and pigs.
We suggest people go to one of two places:
Burley Villa in New Milton – https://www.burleyvilla.co.uk/ 01425 610278
Brockenhurst Riding Stables – http://www.brockenhurstridingstables.co.uk 01590 624747
New Forest Activities, Bushcraft, Canoeing, Kayaking, Ropes Courses, Battlefield courses and bike hire…
They offer a fantastic 10% off any activity for New Forest Escape guests. New Forest Activities, the best in the business down here, are offering a fantastic 10% off any activity for New Forest Escape guests
They’re based in Beaulieu (for their office and bike hire) and Bucklers Hard (for their water based activities).
We have personal experience of how good they are. (Grumpy, cold, pre-teen on a kayak trip one cold March was turned into cold, happy, curious learner – quite a feat at the time!)
Kayak trips are particularly good and if there’s enough of you (min 6) they can pick you up from the private jetty at Gins Barn if that’s where you’re staying, or you can meet them.
They also do bush crafts, archery, ropes, canoeing, raft building and specialise in family group bookings. Perfect for a full on family day that even the big kids will love!
Peppa Pig World
Located in Landford, near Romsey, in the north east of the Forest.
Visiting Peppa Pig World and recovering afterwards… it’s no longer something to dread…
Driving to the New Forest from London or the east. Then you’ll pass this lovely family theme park.
Theme parks are a love/hate thing. The idea of going is often painful, but usually when you’re there, it’s quite good fun. This is our guide to doing a day trip to Paultons Park, staying sane, and how to recover afterwards in style. Paultons Park has been included in the list of top 25 amusement parks in the world, for the first time and beat Drayton Manor, Djurs Sommerland and other category finalists, to be crowned Family Theme Park of the Year at the inaugural Park World Excellence Awards.
We visited the park in June 2018 during the week. Our group was made up of three families, with multiple ages and interests. The kids ranged in age from 4 to 11. Parking there is easy and right from the start, the experience was fantastic. It was a wonderful day of play and discovery and at the end, we’d still not got to everything – even with 0 queuing. Set in 140 acres there is a great deal to cover in a day and we left planning to come again.