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

A guide to New Forest activities for the whole family

Sarah 04 June 2019

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 with our suggestions on what to do in the New Forest, from water sports to horse riding. 

Kayak or canoe down the River Beaulieu 


There is no better way to explore the beautiful Beaulieu River and its impressive variety of wildlife than from the water itself. Whether you are a beginner or a keen paddle sport enthusiast, why not hire a kayak or a canoe and explore the twist and turns? It’s an activity you can enjoy alone, as a family or just the two of you – you might even be able to take well-behaved canines with you too. There are plenty of companies offering a range of canoe and kayak river tours to suit all ages and abilities, and some even offer ‘paddle to the pub’ sessions – perfect for stag and hen parties. 

Find a kayak or canoe provider in the New Forest!

Sea kayaking and paddleboarding 

Definitely one for those interested in what New Forest water sports are on offer! Experience the glorious coastline from a whole new viewpoint while you enjoy the peace and quiet of calm waters. A range of taster sessions, tours and hire options will take you right out into the Solent to watch the sunset, paddle beneath the moonlight, tour the coastal castles of the New Forest, and even paddle to the Isle of Wight and The Needles!  

Find a sea kayak or paddleboard provider in the New Forest!

Give sailing on the Solent a go

Would you rather take to the water without the hassle of rowing your own boat? Several boating companies on the New Forest coast will either allow you to learn to sail, hire a boat of your own or charter a private yacht for a unique experience on the waters. This fabulous New Forest activity is a great way to spot wildlife - if you are lucky, you might even see seals or porpoise. 

Find sailing and yacht hire in the New Forest!

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

Adventures on horseback and cosy country pubs: two things the New Forest is best known for!  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. Some riding stables even combine a scenic trek through the countryside with a pub stop!

Where to go horse riding in the New Forest:

  • Burley Villa School of Riding
  • Brockenhurst Riding Stables
  • 4 Season Forest Rides 
  • Bagnum Riding Stables

Challenge the family at New Forest Water Park

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Image credit: New Forest Water Park 


There’s nothing like a bit of healthy competition in the family, this has to be one if the best things to do in the New Forest. 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 at this thrilling New Forest activity centre. 

Geocache your way around the New Forest

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!

Go walking in the New Forest

One of the easiest and most popular New Forest activities, a good old fashioned countryside walk. With miles of trails and walking routes criss-cross the national park, there are plenty of walks across open heathland, through beautiful forests and beside peaceful lakes. Whether you’re looking for an easy stroll to blow away the cobweb or a long hike to tire out the dog, you’ll find hours of routes to suit everyone, and we’ve found some of our favourites to get you started.

Go cycling in the New Forest 

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.

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.

Go fishing in the New Forest

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Hatchet Pond


Whether you are a keen angler, or you’d just like to give it a go during your stay in the New Forest, you’ll find plenty of beautiful lakes and river settings to set yourselves up for a day. There are around twenty species of fish in the New Forest waterways including pike and brown trout, and several coarse fishing locations int the New Forest, which will require a Forestry Commission permit in addition to rod license. Fishing is a New Forest activity that gives you the chance to experience the peace and tranquillity of the forest - especially if you get up early and watch the sunrise. 

Where to go fishing in the New Forest: 

  • Hatchet Pond
  • Little Hatchet 
  • Broadlands Lakes
  • Turf Croft Farm Fishery 
  • Hucklesbrook Lake
  • Rockbourne Trout Fishery 
  • Orchard Lakes
  • Holbury Lakes
  • Damerman Fisheries

Try out one of the New Forest golf courses

Golf lovers are well-catered for in the New Forest too. There are around 10 clubs in the area including The New Forest Golf Club, the second oldest in Hampshire. This fantastic selection of New Forest golf courses offers 9 or 18 hold courses, driving ranges, and cater for all abilities. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or you’d like to try it with the family, there’s a course to suit you. 

Choose a New Forest golf course to visit. 

Find a New Forest Activity Provider 

New Forest Activities 

One of the leading New Forest activity centres, New Forest Activities offers a range of things to do in various locations dotted around the national park. 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, from kayaking to archery. 

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 learn survival skills, you can put together a package that your group will love, all set within the grounds of this impressive New Forest adventure park.  

The New Forest Paddle Sport Company

Based in Milford-on-Sea, The New Forest Paddle Sport Company is one of the best for New Forest water sports. They provide a whole range of SUP and kayak lessons and experiences on the New Forest coastline. Book a sunset picnic experience, paddle by moonlight, or take a tour of the West Solent or Hurst Castle. 

Where to stay in the New Forest?

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!

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 

 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.

 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.

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!

 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.

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. 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!

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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