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Insider’s Guide to Keyhaven

Sleepy, small and very boaty, Keyhaven was a port in 1206 and is now a fishing hamlet. Bird reserves surround the coast here and the Isle of Wight and Hurst Castle spit and fortress dominate the view across the Solent.

Keyhaven is fronted by the the Keyhaven Marshes, a low lying area of wetland grasses. It’s an important bird reserve and across this you can clearly see the Isle of Wight Needles. If you walk up on the coastal path here you can watch fabulous sunsets from several park benches built just for the job.

The hamlet lies at one end of an extraordinary shingle bank, Hurst Spit. The mile long shingle bar reaches out to the south dividing the turbulent Solent waters and creating a calm lagoon on the eastern side.

Sleepy, small and very boaty, Keyhaven was a port in 1206 and is now a fishing hamlet. It lies 5 miles to the west of Lymington, just within the borders of the New Forest National Park. To get to it you have to drive through the village of Milford-on-Sea. The tiny village is fronted by the the Keyhaven Marshes, a low lying area of wetland grasses. It’s an important bird reserve and across this you can clearly see the Isle of Wight Needles. If you walk up on the coastal path here you can watch fabulous sunsets from several park benches built just for the job.

The hamlet lies at one end of an extraordinary shingle bank, Hurst Spit. The mile long shingle bar reaches out to the south dividing the turbulent Solent waters and creating a calm lagoon on the eastern side. Hurst Castle dominates the middle distance views from this coast. It was built by Henry VIII in 1544 to defend the Solent. King Charles was imprisoned there in the year 1648 when he was en-route to face trial in London. There is an excellent museum here and coffee shop. It’s a great place for views, and there are masses of moored leisure boats here. It’s also perfect for kayaking or paddle boarding. You can catch a boat taxi from the coastal path out to Hurst Castle for a few pounds and it’s well worth the trip. The walk back is a good mile and you’ll end up back at the ‘crabbing bridge’ as the locals know it.

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The Gun Inn is in the centre of Keyhaven. It’s an 18th Century institution and was often visited by the soldiers from the Hurst Castle who wanted a change from their own pub in the castle. The pub now has over 300 malt whiskies for sale, each with tasting notes to help you choose your perfect dram. The low beamed oak ceilings and interior is worth a visit.

Guests at our houses are welcome at the Keyhaven Yacht Club for informal teas and coffees.

Lymington and Keyhaven are joined with a network of foot and bridlepaths, perfect for cycling. But we love the coastal path which runs along the sea defences. The walk takes 50-60 minutes to get to the Yachthaven marina (great for hot choc’ pit stop) and the start of Lymington town.

There is a single road that passes through the village. It gets progressively smaller and smaller as you go west. Once you pass the Gun Inn,  round the Old Post Office (you can rent it with us) and the boatyard full or the all-colours-blue dinghies on the left, the lane reduces even further. People park on the roadside by Hurst Spit but the tide often floods this area so it’s quite surreal to see cars, wheel deep in seaside on their holidays.

Houses that we rent in the village are all coastal: Coastguards (sleeps 4), Old Post Office (sleeps 8) and The Breakers (sleeps 14). They are all within a stones throw of each other.