A guide to New Forest activities for the whole family  holiday cottages

A guide to New Forest activities for the whole family

Does your summer holiday look more like bikes on the car roof than sun loungers and cocktails? Then you are in the right place! Families with energetic children who are prone to boredom along with active adults who like to keep busy, will be spoilt for choice when it comes to New Forest activities. We know you don’t want to compromise on your holiday property though, so luckily, we have some beautiful New Forest cottages, any of which would make the perfect relaxing base. Plan a fantastic itinerary for your active holiday in the New Forest with our suggestions on what to do.

Adventures with New Forest Activities

New Forest Activities is the biggest provider of active things to do in various locations dotted around the New Forest. Expert instructors and guides mean that beginners can try their hand at something new, while feeling safe, or the more experienced adventurer can improve their skills.  This could be the perfect opportunity for you to test your bravery or discover a thrill-seeking side you never knew you had.

Kayak down the River Beaulieu - a range of sessions allows you to choose an experience that you are comfortable with, from a short taster session to Kayaking Adventure and Beaulieu River Tours, which allow you to explore more of the river. You can also hire a ‘sit on top’ kayak which allows a rare opportunity to get out on the river without a guide.


Sea kayaking adventures - sea kayaking will allow you to experience the glorious coastline from a whole new viewpoint while you enjoy the peace and quiet of calm waters. Beginners can start with a 3-hour taster session on the Beaulieu River before tackling the Discover Sea Kayaking or the Sea Kayak Explorer Day Experience.

Need to know: Previous kayaking experience is recommended or, if you opt for a day session, consider the taster first.


Battlefield LIVE - do you know any youngsters who LOVE running around chasing each other? Battlefield LIVE is a great New Forest activity to include in your holiday plans. Described as ‘a cross between a grown-up laser tag and pain-free paintball’, it is a digital combat game experience using the outdoors and infra-red gaming technologies. Work together as your team plays several different scenarios.

Need to know: Family-friendly open sessions run on busy weekends and school holidays. These are open to family groups only. Large groups can also be accommodated if you are considering stag or hen parties or even corporate events. 


Canoe along the River Beaulieu - Whichever canoe session you book with New Forest Activities, canoeing is a great way to explore the hidden creeks of the River Beaulieu. Paddle to the Pub is a 3 or 4-hour session, which will include a pub stop for a drink or bite to eat - perfect for stag and hen parties! Canoe Explorer is for children over 12 and promises you’ll cover a good distance from Bailey’s Hard to Buckler’s Hard, while the family canoeing session will cater for younger canoers too. Other tours include Winter Paddling, Canoe Raft Building and Beaulieu River Tours.


Where to stay? Treetops, Beaulieu

Treetops is located less than 0.5 miles from the starting point of some of the New Forest Activities canoeing and kayaking experiences – perfect!

You'll also find even more great places to stay nearby among all of our Beaulieu cottages.

Horse riding through the New Forest – with a pub stop!

Adventures on horseback and cosy country pubs: two things the New Forest is best known for! 4 Seasons Forest Rides combine a scenic trek through the countryside with a break at the High Corner Inn Pub in Linwood. This is a fantastic 4-hour ride that will suit both youngsters with a sense of adventure, and adults who like to explore at a gentle pace. It will amaze you how much more you will see when exploring from a saddle. With over 1000 wild New Forest ponies living in the national park, other wildlife is unfazed by horses and riders giving you the chance to see deer prancing along the forest path ahead, rabbits jumping from hedges and birds swooping beneath low branches; you will notice just how peaceful the New Forest can be.

Where to stay? Bumble Bee Cottage, Burley

Bumble Bee Cottage, Burley

Bumble Bee Cottage is one of our closest properties to 4 Seasons Forest Rides, located in Burley. Ditch the car and swap for gentle walks and pony rides. It's one of several Burley cottages in our collection, so there's even more choice with where to stay in the surrounding area.

Challenge the family at New Forest Aqua Park

There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition in the family. This 4,000 square metre inflatable aqua park is a giant obstacle course floating on a lake in the New Forest which promises to have you howling with laughter. Challenge the kids to beat the obstacles, or if you’d rather keep two feet on dry land, you can watch from afar and capture the funny falls and failed attempts on camera.

Need to know: It is recommended that children under 11 are accompanied by an adult.

Where to stay: Jenny Wrens, Gorley

Less than a mile from New Forest Aqua Park, Jenny Wrens is ideally located for quick access to the attraction, while enjoying a peaceful countryside setting.

Geocache your way around the park

One of the best ways to explore the New Forest is to set off on foot, but with little ones in tow, we know that can be a daunting prospect. It won’t be long before boredom sets in, or little legs are too tired to carry on; what you need is to join the world’s largest treasure hunt! Geocaching is a real-life adventure to find some of the millions of small ‘caches’ hidden all around the world. Download the Geocache app, enter your location and follow the clues to find those nearest you. With a variety of difficulties, you and your tribe will be exploring for hours! Check out our guide to the best walks in the New Forest for some inspiration on great routes to follow, where you may find one or two caches. 

Need to know: Caches range in type and style. Some could be so tiny you might need a magnifying glass and tweezers, while some will be inside boxes as big as lunch boxes. Make sure you have a pen with you to record your names.

Explore the forest paths on two wheels

Miles of off-road tracks and low speed-limit roads means that the New Forest is a haven for cyclists. A gentle ride beneath a canopy of New Forest pines allows you to soak up the magic of the forest at your own pace and gives those energetic little ones plenty of space to burn off energy. If packing the bikes onto the car sounds like too much work, why not hire them while you are here. Forest Leisure Cycling can help with everything from bike and equipment hire to finding the best routes for your group. Our guide to cycling in the New Forest will help too.

Where to stay? Rosewood Cottage, Burley

Rosewood Cottage, Burley

Located just outside of Burley, Forest Leisure Cycling is just a mile away. If you plan to take your own bike, you can set off on your adventures straight from the front door.

Go Ape at Moors Valley Country Park

Swing through the trees like a monkey – quite literally! The popular Go Ape attraction is another great New Forest activity for tribes of enthusiastic adventurers who are up for a laugh and a challenge. Harness up and take on the Tree Top Challenge, balancing on treetop ropes, climbing trees, tackling obstacles, swinging into trampoline nets and hurtling along speedy zip wires.

Where to stay? Percy's Retreat, Rockbourne

Percy's Retreat, Rockbourne

Close to Moors Valley Country Park, Percy’s Cottage is a charming property set in the historic village of Rockbourne. With a pub in walking distance, there won’t be much more you need!

Sunset paddle boarding in Milford-on-Sea

New Forest Paddle Sport Company

A romantic alternative for couples: explore the glistening waters of beautiful Keyhaven together by paddle board. Your instructor will carry a seasonal picnic supplied by Hurst on the Hill, which will be left with you to enjoy when you reach the beach. Sip champagne and enjoy tasty nibbles beneath the sunset, just the two of you. As twilight creeps in, you’ll paddle home together feeling content. Provided by the New Forest Paddle Sport Company in Milford-on-Sea, you can also choose the Castle Experience, Moonlight Paddle and a SUP Yoga Experience as well as lessons and group bookings for stag, hens or team-building events.

Need to know: You don’t have to be experienced at SUP – beginners can take part too! You can book a taster session first to eliminate those wobbles.

Where to stay? Lighthouse, Milford-on-Sea

Lighthouse, Milford-on-Sea

Set on an elevated cliffside position with stunning views, Lighthouse is just a short walk into the village of Milford-on-Sea. From here you will also have easy access to the activities run by the New Forest Paddle Sport Company.

If you'd like to base your break in this pretty coastal village, you can choose from all of the Milford-on-Sea cottages we have to offer.

Half day party packages with New Forest Outdoor Centre

Why not tailor your own activity package with New Forest Outdoor Centre based in the private grounds of Minstead Manor Estate near Lyndhurst? With access to every outdoor activity you can think of from canoeing, high ropes and courses to learning survival skills, you can put together a package that your group will love. Whether you are planning for a group of fun-loving adults, thrill-seeking, adventuresome children or a group of friends looking for a great birthday celebration there is plenty to choose from at this activity centre. 

Plan your active holiday in the New Forest

View our full collection of cottages in the New Forest to find the perfect base from which to enjoy a vast range of New Forest activities this summer. Complete the trip by booking one of these thrilling things to do in the New Forest: a sure-fire way to keep the whole family occupied!

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