Insider’s Guide to Keyhaven

Sleepy, small and very boaty, Keyhaven was a port in 1206. Now it’s a fishing hamlet and base for boat owners. Bird reserves surround the coast here. 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.

The tiny Keyhaven Quay. Not really a place for playing but worth a wander and you can crab off the wall on the side at high tide.

Keyhaven hamlet

There is little to write about Keyhaven town itself. There is nothing here except the pub, and the cottages and houses of the village. The pub is The Gun. Once famed for it’s smuggling stories and whisky (consumption and amount offered) has undergone a full renovation by a cool local team and has a strong following already. Book ahead for meals, you won’t be dissapointed.

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 as a rule, don’t.

Also we love the little boat trip out to Hurst Castle. This is offered by the exceptional team at Hurst Marine (they also look after the castle at Hurst Spit). More on that below. Read more about it on our blog here. 

Paddleboarding from here is fun. There are two local companies. New Forest Paddle Boarding and Jo at Both excellent and lovely people.

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.

the heart of keyhaven…

Hurst Spit  & Castle

Hurst is at the end of a mile long shingle spit out to a huge WWII castle and fortifications. The Spit protects the sand bar that lies under it and along the coast at Milford on Sea from erosion. So at mid to low tide there are beaches with fine and warm yellow sand that appear, and often a lagoon of warm water gets trapped by the beach – completely wonderful for children on holiday.

Out on the Spit, 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.

If/when the castle is open – there is also a very good small café in the castle grounds for light lunches or refreshments.

And if you’re interested in the characters that run the castle ….Read more about Jason Crane the castle-keeper, mechanic and boatman here





For all else, we refer people Milford on Sea village. It is a 20 minute walk back inland.
See our full Guide here. 

There is an excellent website focusing on the positives here;
Don’t miss out on the eccentric style and up to date info on foodie places, what’s on and local initiatives.

The village green is the heart of the village. It is surrounded by great cafes, local independent shops, an excellent butchers shop, and a smattering of some really lovely wine bars and restaurants. You’ll also find a greengrocer which does good seasonal and local veg’, a pharmacy, various independent shops and good pubs, (we love The Wash House microbrewery). Towards Keyhaven, there is Hollands the supermarket, which is a GOLDEN find and not to be judged from the outside. Do not miss it!

Just a few minutes walk away is the extensive beach that runs both south to the renowned Hurst Castle (approx a mile and a half), or west for miles.

This area of the New Forest is usually over looked and let’s hope that continues. Those clever enough to visit will find pretty seaside villages with knockout views, good shopping, endless beaches that have yellow sand at mid to low tide, lines of colourful beach huts, good cafes and fabulous views of the Isle of Wight. Rarely busy, there are fewer tourists than many of Britain’s beach areas, and tacky tourist shops are rare!