The New Forest National Park is one of the most stunning locations in the South of England. If you have a love of the great outdoors, the Park’s open pastures, woodland and coastline really are hard to beat.
With a host of activities for all the family on offer, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this spectacular landscape. For those just looking for the chance to unwind, the region also offers some fantastic places to eat and drink.
When planning your trip to this richly varied region, it is important to find a location that meets your needs. To give you a hand in deciding where is best for you, we have selected some of the best towns and villages in and around this spectacular area.
If you see anywhere you like, why not make a trip of it, and book one of the best holiday cottages in the New Forest. If you’re dreaming of a New Forest getaway but have left everything a little late, worry not, just check out our selection of last-minute New Forest cottages.
Best for: Cycling and convenience
Declared “Britain’s most beautiful place to live”, Brockenhurst is perfectly located for those wanting to explore some of the most impressive trails that the National Park has to offer.
With direct trains from London Waterloo, why not leave your car at home and get lost amongst the towering Douglas Firs of the Blackwater Arboretum on a rental bike from Cyclexperience. Conveniently located in the village centre, the helpful staff will be sure to kit you out with everything you need.
It’s just as easy to explore the surrounding countryside on foot and the high street has a wide range of pubs, cafes and restaurants to enjoy. If you’re looking for a hassle-free trip, look no further than Brockenhurst!
Where to drink: The large beer garden at the Huntsman of Brockenhurst is the perfect spot to unwind with a tipple at the end of the day. This characterful pub has recently been refurbished with a stylish modern decor and oozes sophisticated charm. Kids and the young at heart are also sure to enjoy the traditional indoor skittle alley!
Where to eat: As its name suggests, Le Blaireau specialises in French and European cuisine. The intimate bistro is an ideal spot for a romantic dinner for two and the wide selection of wine and classic French menu arrive via first class, but unpretentious, service.
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Best for: History and nature
In the heart of the New Forest, Lyndhurst is often considered the “capital” of the region. The village is one of the largest and home to the Forest Centre Museum, where you can learn more about the area’s rich history.
The New Forest has a long history of connections to the British Royal Family. William the Conqueror famously established hunting grounds around Lyndhurst when he declared the region his “Nova Foresta” in the 11th century.
Today, Lyndhurst is more well known for animal conservation than hunting. The Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary and the Pondhead Conservation Trust are both fantastically informative days out and offer the chance to enjoy some unique wildlife.
Where to drink: In the centre of town, the Waterloo Arms offers a fantastic selection of local cask ales, wines and spirits. With a thatched-roof and traditional wooden beamed ceiling, the pub has a real sense of tradition and history.
Where to eat: Serving a selection of steak and seafood dishes, the menu at the Surfing Moo Moo expands on the idea of a ‘surf and turf’ in delightfully innovative ways. The restaurant is incredibly popular with both visitors and locals so it’s best to make a reservation to ensure that you get a table.
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Best for: Daytrips and relaxation
Lying on the banks of the River Beaulieu, this picturesque village has everything you need to relax after a long hike or bike ride across the National Park.
Beaulieu is also perfectly located to explore some of the New Forest’s most popular attractions. The National Motor Museum and Palace House are both nearby and offer discounts for families and large groups.
The North Solent National Nature Reserve lies just five miles South from Beaulieu. From here you can enjoy the vibrant marine wildlife that occupies the unique habitat between the southern edge of the New Forest and the Isle of Wight.
Best places to drink: The recently refurbished Royal Oak pub lies on the outskirts of the Beaulieu village, making it the perfect spot to stop off after a day exploring the forest. The pub is dog-friendly and even has five horse corrals for those exploring the New Forest on horseback!
Best places to eat: The Terrace restaurant at the Montagu Arms hotel specialises in fresh local produce. The focus here is on seasonal cooking of the highest quality. Whatever time of year, the award-winning kitchen staff are renowned for showcasing the best of the Hotel’s own organic garden .
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Best for: Traditional charm
Burley has more charm than most other New Forest villages put together. Known for its rich history and weird and wonderful associations with witchcraft and smuggling, you can expect thatched cottages and a real sense of tradition here. As you wander between the village’s local shops and cafes, don’t be surprised if your path is occasionally interrupted by free-roaming ponies and cattle.
These local inhabitants are used to human company but it’s best to give them right of way! Before you leave, be sure to pay a visit to the Burley Fudge Shop. The quaint speciality shop offers over thirty varieties of the sweet stuff and is the perfect spot to pick up some delicious holiday gifts for friends and family!
Best places to drink: Renowned for their outstanding cask conditioned ales, the Fuller’s run White Buck is worth the 1 mile walk from the centre of the village. The pub has a large beer garden which even hosts Shakespeare plays during the summer.
Best places to eat: The Old Farmhouse Restaurant and Tea Room is a lovely spot to enjoy a traditional breakfast before heading out for a day’s adventure exploring the National Park. The Tea Room also offers traditional afternoon tea and their scones are hard to beat!
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Best for: Watersports and walking
South-East of Burley, on the Estuary of the Lymington River, this bustling seaside town is rooted in a rich history of shipbuilding, yachting and the salt trade. This past is evident in the cobbled streets and exquisite pastel coloured Georgian terraces that were built by the local upper-classes in the 19th century.
Today, the marina still glistens with yachts and boats of all sizes and there are a number of companies offering sailing experiences. There is also a popular ferry route between Lymington and Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. With 15 crossings available throughout the day, why not pop over to explore island life for the day!
The village also has the best of best worlds when it comes to walking, with paths along the coast and back inland to woodlands and open heathland. With two train stations, the town is perfectly located for a car-free holiday in the great outdoors.
Best places to drink: In the centre of town, the King’s Head is a traditional English pub serving a range of wines, spirits and beers. For that authentic taste, why not try the award-winning Ringwood Best, brewed just a few miles and a firm New Forest favourite!
Best places to eat: Seafood-lovers are unsurprisingly spoilt for choice when visiting Lymington. For that special occasion, why not try the award-winning Verveine Fishmarket Restaurant. The inventive menu is served with a sense of theatre and celebrates the local seaside tradition.
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Best for: A tranquil getaway
The hamlet of Lepe lies on the shore of the Solent and is home to the Lepe Country Park. This quiet and secluded spot is perfect for birdwatching and visits to the nearby Milford on Sea.
The beach at Lepe played a critical role in the Allied invasion of Normany and remnants of the World War II era structures still pepper the beach. The Park now houses an exhibition documenting D-Day and recently organised a two day festival to commemorate its 75th anniversary.
After a walk along the pine topped cliffs, you can take one of the many paths down to relax along the mile-long beach. For those looking for a slightly longer adventure, continue along the 10km walking path back inland!
Best places to drink: Five miles around the coast from Lepe lies the Jolly Sailor. The pub sits overlooking Ashlett Creek and with plenty of walking and cycling paths the spot is a real hidden gem to unwind and relax with a drink.
Best places to eat: Nestled within the Country Park, the Lookout offers spectacular views across the Solent. The signature dish of Bowman beer battered fish and chips is a perfect fit this seaside location!
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