Milford on Sea is a lively and vibrant village just a few miles east of Lymington. It sits on the coast and has extensive beach front which is sandy at mid-low tide.
The beach is always bustling in the summer months with windsurfers, kite surfers, kayakers and paddle boarders, plus swimmers enjoy the quick swim to the sandbar where groups gather to chat or splash around in the surf.
This area of the New Forest is usually overlooked 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!
Eating (and drinking) out here
Verveine Seafood Restaurant – Foodies must go. It is rated highly by locals and on social media. Their menu is created to include a mixture of favourites alongside new and seasonally inspired creations using the very best ingredients. There is a choice of 4, 6, 8 course meals.
The Cave – Drinks merchant and tapas bar in the centre of Milford village. Informal, atmospheric, jolly and well loved by locals. A warm welcome is ensured at any time of day, albeit with a light lunch, afternoon tea/coffee, through to pre-dinner or after-dinner drinks to finish off your evening in style.
Saltwater Cafe and bar – This laid-back cafe can be found just off the main village green and is the perfect spot for breakfast or a delicious lunch.
The Smugglers Pub in the village centre is worth a visit. It’s unpretentious and run by the locals.
The Wash House Bar is a local microbrewery. It’s a cross between a pub and a bar, with a very relaxed atmosphere. With an ever-changing choice of local traditional ales to choose from, award winning gins, spirits and wines there’s bound to be a tipple that takes your fancy.
The Needles Eye Cafe provides meals, snacks & New Forest ice creams on the promenade.
Shops in Milford on Sea
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. Towards Keyhaven, there is Hollands supermarket, which is a GOLDEN find and not to be judged from the outside. Do not miss it!
Things to do from here
Milford on Sea Beach, is a long shingle beach with sand at the waters edge during low tide. Character beach huts line the beachfront and there are great views of the Isle of Wight & The Needles. To the west you can clearly see the Purbeck Hills, Hengistbury Head & Christchurch Harbour. All are worth a visit and have their own vibe.
Walkers will love the beach/cliff top path that runs from Milford to Barton on Sea – where you can stop at the Beachcombers cafe for a decent refuel before heading back.
Two excellent guided walks are on offer from local company Visit Milford on Sea.
‘Discover Milford on Sea’s Hidden Woodland’ – a 3.5km ramble – through Milford’s Pleasure Grounds, where visitors can learn about the history of this area, as well as its fauna and wildlife. The first of these walks will take place this Thursday (21st April) at 10.30am from the village green and will be fortnightly until Thursday 22 September.
The other walk on offer is the ‘Insider’s Guide to Milford on Sea’ that gives the local low down on what Milford on Sea has to offer. Visitors will be taken to the village’s secret meadow, given a glimpse into the nature reserve, whilst getting the ins and outs of where best to eat, what to do and where to go whilst staying in Milford on Sea. This walks starts on Thursday 28th April and will run fortnightly until Thursday 29th September.
Both walks will take approximately 90 minutes and are bookable on their website.
Hurst Spit & Castle
Nearby on the coast is Hurst Spit, 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 here from erosion. So at med’ to low tide there is a fine and warm yellow sand that appears, 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.
The ferry runs back and forth to Keyhaven Harbour if you can’t face the walk Read more about it on our blog here.
And if you’re interested in the characters that run the castle ….Read more about Jason Crane the castle-keeper, mechanic and boatman here.
Things to do … just outside Milford on Sea
A great walk or cycle, Sturt Pond and Keyhaven Marshes Nature Reserve to Lymington and back. Sturt Pond lies just East from Milford on Sea beach at the start of Hurst Spit. The pond is a haven for swans, ducks, Canada geese, mallard, wigeon, teal, shelduck & grebes. Two wooden bridges cross the stream which runs from Sturt Pond to the salt marshes. The marshes of Keyhaven Nature Reserve has an abundance of wading birds including the little Egret, redshank, ringed plover, oystercatcher, dunlin & curlew, plus a whole variety of regularly changing visitors.
Milford on sea is conveniently located 10 mins from Lymington by car.
Milford on Sea is served by More buses X1 service from Bournemouth to Lymington. From Milford on Sea, New Milton, Lymington and Brockenhurst train stations are all in easy reach.
The History of Milford ….
Milford on Sea was once a Saxon Manor, 500 years later it appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small manor with a church, a mill and about 50 inhabitants. It belonged to Christchurch Priory from 1107 to 1539 and was later used as a saltern – place of making salt. Until late in the 1800’s Milford on Sea was small hamlet of thatched cottages along the High Street. Little further development took place until the 1880s, when Colonel Cornwallis-West of Newland Manor planned to convert the village into a premier seaside resort, adding “on-Sea” to the name. The scheme failed however, due to an outbreak of typhoid & lack of funds. The land reclaimed from the salt farms is now an area of great natural beauty. In the later part of the 18th century, wealthy newcomers moved in to buy up farms and build fine houses. Their Georgian houses are part of over 50 listed properties in the village today.
Like most of the coast here, the village was an important part of the areas smuggling history. Brandy was brought in from France and transferred overland by ‘tubbers’ and ‘runners’ toward London. Dragoon Guards were stationed along the coast and the danger to smugglers and locals involved was immense. Read more here.
Dinner – party facts …
1. Milford on Sea holds an annual May Day festival on the village green with traditional (although not often seen) Maypole dancing. In mid-summer the excellent Music and Arts Festival takes place, the result of the tireless voluntary efforts of dedicated local talent. It runs on the small village green for about three days with local bands and drama from local schools, as well as stalls and craft workshops.
2. The Victorian pillar box is the oldest one in Hampshire. This rare post box was manufactured between 1856-1857 by Smith & Hawkes of Birmingham, it has vertical fluting, a small hinged vertical posting slot, stepped circular base and heavy cap. The shape of this box illustrates the reason today’s post boxes carry the name “pillar box”. This Pillar box preceded the famous hexagonal box by John Penfold by some 10 years. The pillar box can be found at the junction of Victoria Road with Cornwallis Road.