GetOutside Champion: Bel Dixon
“Bel, are you always grinning?!” “No. That’s mostly when I GetOutside.”
Discover the best places to go when visiting the New Forest National Park in Hampshire, England.
With its precious heathland, majestic woodland and 26 miles of coastland, the New Forest National Park is an oasis of calm in the bustling south of England. The Forest is home to thousands of New Forest ponies, cattle, donkey, sheep and pigs, which all roam free across the Open Forest.
Excellent public transport links from London and beyond mean that the New Forest is the perfect location for a car free holiday or day trip to enjoy dozens of attractions and miles of unspoilt countryside.
Start your visit with a trip to the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst, which is packed full of walking maps, exhibitions and fascinating displays – it is the perfect introduction to the National Park.
Throughout the summer you can travel around using the New Forest Tour for an open top bird’s eye view of the Forest’s villages and landscape. Choose from three scenic routes taking you around ancient landscapes, picture postcard villages and popular attractions. Hop-on and off as much as you like all day, take your bikes on board and enjoy discounts for attractions on the routes.
If you’re looking for a quieter experience look no further than the National Park’s 26 miles of lesser known coastline, which are great for bird watching and views of the Isle of Wight. A highlight is Lepe Country Park, where you can pop into its tearoom and play area before relaxing on the large shingle beach. Or venture to the end of Hurst spit, a two mile walk from Keyhaven or a short and scenic ferry ride to the castle built by Henry VIII in 1554.
Of course the New Forest is well known as a wildlife haven, so why not visit Bolderwood to search for deer from the deer viewing platform before enjoying a short woodland walk. En-route you can pause at Blackwater and walk the Tall Trees trail (routes.newforestnpa.gov.uk/routes/blackwater-tall-trees-trail), where you will see some of the oldest and tallest trees in England.
As well as wildlife, scenery and family activities, the Forest also has a rich history. Find out what it was like to live and work in an 18th century shipbuilding village at Buckler's Hard near the picturesque village of Beaulieu, then pop over to Beaulieu itself – a beautiful village with an ancient abbey and home to the National Motor Museum.
For walks and bike rides, the New Forest is hard to beat, you can find the best ones on the National Park’s routes website. Many people like to spend time walking in the woods or across the beautiful heathland. The National Park has many quiet country lanes, perfect for cycling, as well as over 100 miles of way-marked cycle tracks across the Crown Lands of the Forest. It's easy to hop off a train and go for a bike ride. You can hire bikes easily in the main villages of Brockenhurst, Burley and Beaulieu.
Wherever you choose to visit in the New Forest, travelling car-free is the best way to appreciate the sights, sounds and smells of this beautiful area. So jump on the train, enjoy a walk or rent a bike and make the most of your time in this special place.
Visit the New Forest NPA website to find out more about visiting.