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Insider’s Guide to Keyhaven

Your essential guide to living like-a-local in Keyhaven...

Sleepy, small and very boaty, Keyhaven was a port in 1206. Now it’s a fishing hamlet and base for boat owners. The Isle of Wight and Hurst Castle dominate the foreground of the panoramic views of the Solent here and the nature reserve provides an idyllic setting to take it all in.

Keyhaven hamlet lies at one end of an extraordinary, mile long, shingle bank named Hurst Spit, which reaches out to the south and divides the turbulent Solent waters to create a calm lagoon on the eastern side. Fronted by the Keyhaven Marshes, a low lying area of wetland grasses, this is a must see for anyone in the Milford area.

Boaty, laidback, dog-friendly, family-friendly... and all together rather lovely -  Keyhaven is just fab for a New Forest escape!

For fresh-air-frolics...

Keyhaven hamlet has a single road that passes through the village. Once you pass the Gun Inn pub, round The Old Post Office (one of our lovely holiday properties) and the boatyard full of the all-colours-blue dinghies, the lane reduces even further, leaving just enough room for you to park up roadside and access the vast shingled beachfront.

For bird enthusiasts, a visit to Sturt pond is a must. A haven for swans, ducks and Canada geese, the marshes have an abundance of wading birds including the little Egret, redshank and ringed plover, plus a whole variety of regularly changing visitors.

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

For the foodies...

One of the mainstays of local, seasonal and excellently-eco, is the Gun Inn, Keyhaven. The food here is so good that we are now recommending it as a serious alternative to dining at the revered Pig restaurant collection.


You can read our full blog on this fantastic pub here.

What to do nearby...

Milford on Sea

Keyhaven’s sister village, Milford on Sea has a village green surrounded by great cafes, local independent shops, an excellent butchers shop, and a smattering of 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).

You can read our full Insider’s Guide to Milford on Sea here…


Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight makes for a fantastic day trip, and the Wighlink Ferry from nearby Lymington Pier takes you straight into Yarmouth. Only taking approx 30 mins, you’ll get to see the sea teaming with action on your way over, and visit attractions like Blackgang Chine.

For the family...

For a fun (and free) activity in Keyhaven, grab a net and crabbing line and head to one of the two bridges on Hurst Spit for crabbing and paddling in the shallow water. In summer months a ice cream van frequents this spot for refreshments.


Hurst Road in neighbouring Milford on Sea (SO41 0PY) benefits from a vast beachfront and is home to one of the areas best loved play parks. On the beach front, and amongst the beach huts the play park is perfectly positioned alongside the family owned Needles Eye cafe, who serve food and refreshments, and most importantly… New Forest ice creams.


Where better to learn to sail than the nearby town of Lymington? A famous yachting town with an international reputation for sailing; with Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie as a previous resident.

In Lymington you will find two Marinas, Berthon and Haven – along with two sailing clubs RLYC and Lymington Town. Boaty folk (and aspiring boaty folk) can look into chartering sailing boats/ RIBs, but renting a kayak/ paddleboard is also a great option for exploring Lymington River.


Aqua Park

No self-respecting tween or teenager can possibly pass up the opportunity of nearby Lymington’s Sea Water Baths. There’s a 150m floating obstacle course, offering hours of splish-splash fun for both children, teens and daring adults. If you don’t fancy the inflatable course, there is plenty else to do here. The Lido offers water zorbs, stand up paddle boards, kayaks, aqua jousting, a children’s splash pool & sandpit along with a confectionery kiosk/cafe and toilets, changing rooms with shower facilities. There is disabled access here. The pool opening times vary each year weather depending, but tend to be open July to September. Read our blog – New Forest Water Parks here.


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 was built by Henry VIII in 1544 to defend the Solent.  There is an excellent museum here and a coffee shop. It’s a great place for views and perfect for kayaking or paddle boarding.

You can catch a water taxi to/ from Keyhaven Quay out to Hurst Castle for a few pounds and it’s well worth the trip.

If you’re interested in the characters that run the castle ….You can read more about Jason Crane the castle-keeper, mechanic and boatman on our blog here.

Getting here...

Keyhaven is conveniently located 10 mins from Lymington by car. Neighbouring Milford on Sea village is served by More buses X1 service from Bournemouth to Lymington, so New Milton, Lymington and Brockenhurst train stations are all in easy reach.

We also recommend taking a New Forest tour bus for sightseeing in the National Park during summer months. Hop on and hop off wherever you like, catch the next bus or even change direction by swapping the route – all on the same ticket! Whichever route you take, this is a great way to meet the New Forest ponies, roam around the chocolate box villages and immerse yourself in the quintessential English countryside.

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