Free, or nearly free, stuff to do with kids in the New Forest

So we have written extensively on what’s free and fun in other posts, but here’s the ‘take-away’ for busy parents…

  • Head to the beach – for a day at least.
  • And do Rope Swings – for a day at least.
  • Explore the forest. There are some cool walks. Build dens. Jump steams. Spot ponies. Pick blackberries…
  • Cycle – or catch the train to Beaulieu Road station and walk/cycle back home again.
  • Go for a night walk and listen to the owls, go at dusk and go quietly to watch deer coming out.
  • Set up a treasure hunt for the kids – do it near a rope swing and stay all day…
  • Moors Valley Country Park is a Forestry Commission site toward Ringwood and excellent. There is a fantastic play park in the trees. Walk from structure to structure. There is a huge play park too. And a giant sandpit area. Pay for your parking only.

I could write about this forever…. but here’s a bit more info below…

Spend a day on the local beaches…

  1. 1. Head to the beach. It’s free. Here are our top beaches for free fun. BYO good spirits, silly hats and picnics. Enjoy!
  2. A – Just east of Lymington is Tanners Lane. Sandy, pebbly, silty. A gentle incline into the water. It’s great for wild walks, quiet picnics, tree climbing and den making. Dogs welcome but watch them on the bird reserve. Read our full guide here. 
  3. B – the beach at Milford on Sea is sandy at mid-low tide. Check the times and go there for yellow sand and sandcastles. It’s rarely busy. Park on the cliff and walk down. Dogs welcome all year. Read our Insiders Guide here. 
  4. C – Lepe Beach on the most eastern side of the National Park boundary is lovely. It does get busy (for the New Forest anyway) in peak dates. The new cafe there is lovely but avoid busy times.
  5. D – Beaches to the west: Highcliffe, Avon Beach etc. All lovely. They can be busy in peak times. They’re fine yellow sand.
Tanners lane in the New Forest

Tanners Lane beach


Explore and find Rope Swings around the forest and the coast.

Many are over streams. Some have epic views.

Read our full guide and watch our short video here.

Rope Swing over a River - New Forest

the rope swing at Rhinefield, read the blog for how to find it


Go for a walk and a picnic.

Our favourite walks for kids are:

A – along the Beaulieu River. Start at the Agamemnon Boat Yard and head to Beaulieu. You can cycle it too. You’ll pass our lovely rental house the Beaulieu Brickworks, just to the south of it along the track to Bucklers Hard there is a particularly magical little spot on the creekside. Set up a picnic here and you’ll find a secret rope swing too. Don’t fancy a picnic? If you head onto Beaulieu not only can you get a smashing lunch at any of the Beaulieu Cafe’s but the walk along the river is charming. There’s always lots to see. Go in the evening and the owl-chat is great.
B. Start from one of the car parks near The Pig Hotel in Brockenhurst. Walking in all directions there is lovely.
C. Rhinefield walk area is a show-stopper but can get busy. The trees are so ancient and thick here that there it is rarely windy. So even if it’s raining, you’ll be
fairly protected from the wind
D. The New Forest Reptile Centre near Lyndhust is a good place to start. Next to the car park there is a fantastic play area – inside the rhododendron bushes, by the stream. But be warned, you’ll never get your kids out of it. They Centre is run by the RSPB and they are sure to be running activities too.

(The New Forest is home to 65% of the UK’s beetles. Don’t forget to look out for them – see walks from near Brockenhurst).

E. How about a walk from the Standing Hat car parks at Brockenhurst? You can head off in most directions for trails that are lovely and quiet. Look at our Bug-Mazing day guide out here. 

Marble Kids
Rhinefield Drive - New FOrest

Rhinefield Drive


Visit Hurst Castle for hide and seek games, a short boat trip and great views. 

You may even get some foraging. The lagoon coast here is full of delicious samphire in Aug/Sept.

Park at the Keyhaven end and you can go crabbing off the little bridge at the base of the Hurst Castle Spit. Fancy a walk to the Castle? It’s 2 miles. Or the little boat goes there and back goes every 20 mins for a small fee. The Castle is English Heritage and you do need to pay to go in. Walk around it for free and there are amazing views there toward the Needles and Isle of Wight.

It’s the same beach here as Milford – so at mid to low tide it gets lovely and sandy. The water here toward the Island is very dangerous. Do not swim here. But on the other side of the spit in the lagoon, it’s gentle and lovely. Paddle boarding here is great.

  1. Read our Insiders Guide to Keyhaven here.
Hurst Beach - New FOrest Hurst Castle Fort Hurst Castle from teh Air
  1. Lymington Sea Water Baths

Read our full guide to waterparks in the New Forest here. The Lymington Lido (Salt Water Baths) are fab. For under a tenner per person for the day they can go wild and play on the floating assault course to their hearts content. Last count was that it was 110 metres.

There is a nice ice-cream and simple cafe kiosk here. Nice coastal walking too.

Parents – join in – this is a place for big kids too! Or take a book and chill. It’s wind free in spots and like going back to the 1940’s.


Lymington Sea Water Baths