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A Guide to the New Forest

Get the scoop on what makes the New Forest so special to ensure you’re all set for a great escape. unforgettable adventure.

The New Forest has long been a top UK holiday destination, with leafy glades, ancient woodland, roaming wildlife and coastal getaways tempting visitors from all over.

Get inspired with our insider guide and discover just some of the reasons why we love the area so much.

Where is the New Forest?

Spanning over 140,000 acres, the New Forest region is primarily located in Hampshire and extends slightly into Wiltshire and Dorset. Residing on England’s south coast, the National Park and surrounding areas offer a tranquil escape from busy urban life, helping you reconnect with nature.

Just a 2-hour drive and 90-minute train journey from London, the New Forest is in a wonderfully accessible spot. The enchanting countryside will have you feeling like you’ve stepped into another world, as nowadays it’s so rare to find such a large area of unspoilt heathland and woods.

Why is the New Forest Called the New Forest?

The distinctive name of the area dates back to 1079 when William the Conqueror claimed it as his new exclusive hunting grounds. He named it ‘Nova Foresta’, which eventually became ‘New Forest’ in English.

This means the formal designation of the New Forest is now almost 1,000 years old, imbuing the area with a rich and interesting heritage to explore alongside all its natural wonders.

What is the New Forest Famous For?

Aside from its forests and untouched countryside, the New Forest is also renowned for the free-roaming ponies and other animals you’ll see as you travel across the park.

There are also several sites of historical significance, ranging from Bronze Age settlements to mediaeval hunting lodges and key WWII locations.

Over the years, the New Forest has inspired various artists and writers, contributing to a rich local culture.

What to Do in the New Forest

No matter how you prefer to spend your time whilst on a getaway, the New Forest offers the perfect day out for everyone – from wiling away an afternoon on a tranquil woodland stroll to visiting the top-rated attractions.

Popular activities and attractions include

  1. Walking and cycling

    There are a plethora of stunning, accessible trails in the New Forest, providing an excellent way to soak up the beauty of the area, with plenty of chances to see wildlife and scenic views. From seals and birds along the coastline, to donkeys and ponies (and even pigs during pannage) amongst the countryside, you never know who you’ll meet on your travels!

  2. Watersports

    Take to the water and see the New Forest from a new vantage point. Several activity centres offer a range of watersports, including wakeboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, yachting and more.

  3. Visit the charming towns and villages

    The New Forest is home to a range of quaint towns and villages, perfect for stopping by for a spot of shopping and a chance to enjoy some local delicacies and foodie hotspots.

  4. Guided Tours

    Whether you want to walk, cycle or take to the water for a boat tour, there are a range of opportunities to see the area guided by local experts, ensuring you can truly make the most of your visit. Wild New Forest know all the best spots and have tours on land and sea.

  5. Hurst Castle

    An artillery fort commissioned by Henry VIII with a long history spanning the centuries. Learn about how Charles I was kept prisoner here and the Hurst castle’s defensive role in WWII.

  6. Buckler’s Hard

    A picturesque 18th-century shipbuilding village with connections to Nelson’s Navy. Visit the museum and reconstructed cottage to step back in time.

  7. National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

    A Beaulieu-based museum that takes you through the history of motoring, with exciting exhibits, famous cars and themed days to capture the hearts of all car and bike enthusiasts.

  8. Exbury Gardens & Steam Railway

    200 acres of woodland and formal gardens with a famous collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. The riverside location is also home to a steam railway that meanders through the gardens.

  9. Paulton’s Park & Peppa Pig World

    A fantastic family theme park with five themed lands, including the beloved Peppa Pig World. Kids (and parents, too) will have endless fun whizzing around rollercoasters and exploring the 70+ rides and attractions.

  10. New Forest Wildlife Park

    A park dedicated to wildlife conservation with over 260 to marvel at. Animal lovers will be in their element, and there’s lots to learn.

Our Insider Guides are a great way to get further insight into the New Forest’s hotspots and our advice on living like a local. 

Visiting the Best New Forest Beaches

Due to the strong associations with forests, some people may not realise that the New Forest is also home to several glorious beaches and many adventures.

The region boasts a 43-mile coastline, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to get some quality seaside time in. The beaches along the New Forest coast are as diverse and abundant with natural beauty as the rest of the area’s inland gems.

With a coastline stretching from Barton on Sea up to Totton, you have your pick of sandy, silty, pebbly and isolated shores. In true New Forest style, you’ll have plenty of chances to spot local wildlife, including the ponies having fun in the sand.

Here are a few of our favourite beaches that would make a great addition to your itinerary

  • – Calshot beach
  • – Lepe beach
  • – Hurst Castle spit
  • – Milford on Sea
  • – Lymington Sea Wall
  • – Highcliffe and Avon beaches (just outside of the New Forest)


The Lymington Sea Wall seaside stroll that takes you from Lymington up to Keyhaven and Milford is a particularly favoured route amongst our team. We’re always recommending it to guests due to the stunning diversity of views and wildlife you may encounter along the way. Along this stretch, you might discover hidden beaches, meet grazing cattle and ponies on the marches or find the perfect spot for admiring a sunset – it really is unbeatable. For more information, see our Insider’s Guide to Lymington.

You can also find out more about these spectacular spots in our more extensive guide to the New Forest Beaches. 

Where to Stay in the New Forest

Our diverse, handpicked selection of holiday cottages in the New Forest offers the perfect escape, no matter your preferred take on luxury. From cheerey cottages right by the sea to hidden retreats nestled among the trees and sumptuous sanctuaries complete with hot tubs and pools, we leave no stone unturned when curating our unique collection of holiday homes. 

Our cottages and getaways are dotted all over the New Forest, including Beaulieu, Brockenhurst, Milford on Sea, Lymington, Burley, and more. So, wherever you’re thinking of sojourning, there’s a New Forest Escapes getaway to make your stay all the more unforgettable. 

The only thing left to do now is see what all the fuss is about and book your New Forest escape!

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