The New Forest in Hampshire is world-renowned for its fantastic beauty and abundance of countryside, heathland and woodlands. The wilds are pleasantly interrupted by a number of picturesque towns and villages that are worth exploring. You’re bound to find lots of fun family attractions, places of historical importance, great places to dine, wild countryside treks, delightful shops and boutiques. There’s so much to discover in the New Forest.
Below are the New Forest's major towns and villages:
The name Beaulieu means ‘beautiful place’ and it fits perfectly. This picture-perfect village located in the south-east of the New Forest is found, perched on the banks of the tidal Beaulieu River. There is an abundance of historical buildings to marvel at and some of the local attractions in the immediate area make for a lovely day out.
For even more information on Beaulieu, check out our complete Beaulieu guide.
Places to visit in Beaulieu
Beaulieu – Motor Museum and Estate is one the New Forest’s best and most popular attractions. Originally the site of Beaulieu Abbey, founded in 1204 by King John as a monastery of the Cistercian order, the principal building is now The Palace House, with a wealth of other attractions also on-site. You can visit both The Palace House and the ruins of the Abbey throughout the year.
Beaulieu Motor Museum and Estate requires a full day to be enjoyed properly, and is highly recommended as a place to go if you have any interest whatsoever in motor vehicles, history or architecture. There’s plenty for children to get involved with too, as there’s a play park and mini-railway amongst other activities. The estate is open to the public throughout the year.
Further upstream on the River Beaulieu, you’ll find the peaceful haven of Buckler’s Hard, an 18th century shipbuilding village. Historians will delight in the scale models illustrating just how the village looked at its peak in the on-site Maritime Museum. Three famous war ships: the Eurylus, Swiftsure and Admiral Nelson’s favourite, Agamemnon, were all built here and saw combat in the Battle of Trafalgar (1805).
Catch a riverboat and see the bewitching riverbanks that display an abundance of wildlife, both flora and fauna, particularly wintering waders and wildfowl.
This lovely 2.5 mile long amble, between Beaulieu village and Buckler’s Hard, takes you through woodland, along scenic riverbanks and tidal salt-marshes. Forming part of the Solent Way, you can pick this way marked walk up from nearby the Montagu Arms.
Find the map here.
Hire bikes from New Forest Activities and take a leisurely ride. The activities centre is found at The Old Forge on the High Street. It offers a great selection of maps for inspiration, as there are a number of good trails around Beaulieu.
Browse and shop
The heart of the village consists of a quaint main street, home to several boutique shops, such as the scrumptious Beaulieu Chocolate Studio, which we highly recommend. Fairweather’s Garden Centre, a true gardeners’ paradise, is close by. Be sure to visit its eatery, Steff’s Kitchen, for a spot of lunch.
At The Montagu Arms, foodies are completely spoilt for choice with more than one restaurant to pick from. The Terrace restaurant is Michelin Star awarded and offers quality culinary delights to satisfy all. A touch more laid back is Monty’s Inn that rustles up rustic country fair along with classic English favourites.
Also close by is Hartnett Holder & Co (HH&Co.) at Lime Wood. If you adore Italian cuisine, an upmarket dining experience awaits. The upscale, and relaxing restaurant space is full of character and the dishes reflect the very best signature dishes from their talented chefs. There are seasonal changes to the menu, and there are also pop-up chef events to sign up for to witness some kitchen wizardry first hand. Book ahead.
Whether you want to stay at the heart of the action or a little further out with views of the river, we have a great range of Beaulieu holiday cottages to stay in.
A yachting haven with colourful and bustling cobbled streets, around the estuary of the Lymington River. The High Street and lanes are lined with Georgian buildings which were built by gentry made rich from the local salterns and from boat building. Both industries have shaped the town over the century’s right through to modern day.
For even more information on Lymington, check out our complete Lymington guide.
St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery
St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery explores the unique history of Lymington and the New Forest coast. The collections reflect aspects of life in the area from prehistory up to the present, alongside galleries displaying art exhibitions that regularly include works on loan from national and regional collections. Supported by the local community, its collections and colourful, hands-on displays offer a fascinating insight into the area for all ages.
Dating back to the 1780’s, Lymington Lido or Lymington Sea Water Baths (as it’s also known) gained popularity in the 1830s because of the healing and strengthening properties of the minerals in the salt plains’ mud and water These days it is a great place to unwind and have fun with family and friends.
Keyhaven Nature Reserve Walk
The coastal footpath to Keyhaven Nature Reserve is waymarked from the far end of the marina. Along the trail you will see a natural haven of lagoons, reed beds, salt marshes and mud flats. It supports a number of vulnerable and rare species of plant and also provides rich feeding grounds for a wide variety of wild birds. Enjoy some of the best views around, across The Solent to the Isle of Wight, along this trail.
There’s a lovely scenic ring route from Lymington that takes you through Buckler’s Hard and Brockenhurst. At 30 miles, it may not appeal to everybody, yet it does give you a great taste of all that’s beautiful in the New Forest National Park. The trail takes you through the heart of the region and there’s plenty of idyllic pubs and pretty spots en route to take a breather and relax.
Browse and shop
The cobbled quay boutique shops combine with an olde-worlde High Street. Blending well-known chains with a healthy dose of independent shops keeps the retail experience interesting and unique. The main shopping streets - St Thomas St, High St, Quay Hill and Quay Road - run in a continuous line through the centre down to the quay. Be sure to pay a visit to central Lymington on a Saturday when the main street is transformed into a lively food and craft market.
Visit The Haven and revel in the stunning views across the Isle of Wight and the Solent. There’s a really vibrant atmosphere here and the menus are varied and especially good if you love fresh sea food.
Burcher & Co has recently been refurbished and promises to offer the best in local cuisine to its clientele. Centrally located in Lymington, its chefs compose a menu that focuses on flavour and quality. The lunch menu offers lighter meals like tapas to enjoy with friends at lunch and for the evenings a full British menu. Early booking is advised during holiday periods.
The Elderflower is another relaxing, quality place to eat in central Lymington. The central twist on the traditional British fare is that there is French influence too. The head chef has experience in the kitchens at 5* hotels and Michelin Star restaurants, so you certainly won’t go home disappointed.
Whether you're looking to explore the pretty High Street or watch the boats go by on the marina, our Lymington cottages are based in great locations to help you make the most of the town.
A few miles south of Lyndhurst you will find the pretty village of Brockenhurst - the name meaning Badger’s Wood - set amidst the most picturesque forest land. The village itself is famed for the New Forest ponies and donkeys that congregate in the High Street - there may come an occasion where you may have to ‘shoo’ them out of your way just to get into Tesco. Brockenhurst has a nice selection of top quality pubs and restaurants, also boutique shops and friendly tea rooms. Annual shows take place close to Brockenhurst, namely the New Forest and Hampshire County Show each July. The village is handily serviced by a mainline railway route and within reach of motorways making Brockenhurst a good place to base yourself on your next New Forest holiday.
SenSpa at Carey's Manor
Book a day spa or treatment at SenSpa at Carey’s Manor, perfect for luxury time-out from your other New Forest pursuits. Why not treat yourself?
Rhinefield Ornamental Drive
Located between Brockenhurst and the A35, the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is an extremely beautiful route which you can walk or cycle. Lined with blooming bushes, flowers and tall trees, don't forget to bring along your camera and enjoy the fantastic landscapes.
Walk to Balmer Lawn
If you like walking, head to Balmer Lawn. Many of the local trails originate here and from around the Standing Hat Woods. A pleasant place to find New Forest ponies and enjoy the joys of the local countryside. Follow the circular route which is very short and suitable for people of all ages.
Grab a bicycle from one of the largest cycle hire shops in the New Forest, Cyclexperience, where you can set off on two routes on one of their recommended routes. These include rides to Beaulieu and Buckler's Hard and a route following a former railway to Burley.
Browse and shop
Setley Ridge Vineyard and Farm Shop is a brilliant place to stock up on local produce for picnics and to find ideas for evening meals. Brockenhurst is dotted with petite retro clothing and antique shops that are worth a visit.
Just outside Brockenhurst is one of the best eateries in the New Forest, and it’s called The Pig. You will need to book a table but it’s well worth planning in advance. Leave some time to explore the extensive and beautifully maintained on site kitchen garden and enjoy the large and diverse menu.
Brockenhurst is the perfect place to base your New Forest adventures from, so how better to enjoy a break in the area than a stay in one of our Brockenhurst holiday cottages?
Lyndhurst is a pleasant village at the heart of the New Forest. It’s worth a visit because it’s home to some pleasant restaurants, independent shops and the New Forest Centre, where you can learn about the history and heritage of the National Park. The New Forest Centre is also where you can find a really helpful and friendly local tourist information centre. You’ll be able to get details about local markets, events and maps there too in order to make the most of your wonderful break.
For even more information on Lyndhurst, check out our complete Lyndhurst guide.
New Forest Wildlife Centre
Also worth visiting in the nearby village of Ashurst is the New Forest Wildlife Park, set within 25 acres of unspoilt woodland. Get up close to three different deer species, watch the otters at feeding time and see a variety of animals including wolves, wallabies and bison.
Take the short walk out of Lyndhurst to the nearby Pondhead Inclosure, rich in birdlife. On the way you'll pass over rolling heathland on White Moor and look across the wetlands to Longwater Lawn.
Lyndhurst is a great place to base yourself if you're planning on exploring the New Forest on two wheels. Hire a bike from The Woods Cyclery before setting out on a scenic ride to Lepe Beach and back, enjoying the views over to the Isle of Wight once you arrive at the seaside.
Browse and shop
Throughout Lyndhurst there are a range of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs to enjoy. The Old Apothecary is a charming soap shop while Page's is the place to go for all drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
Like everywhere else in the New Forest Lyndhurst has its fair share of great places to eat and drink. The Oak Inn is one of the most popular, a lively gastropub with both lunch and dinner options. La Pergola, a traditional Italian restaurant, is another wonderful place which serves authentic Italian dishes, including pasta, pizza and antipasti.
With so much on Lyndhurst's doorstep, it really is a fantastic place to base your New Forest adventures from. Take a look at our collection of Lyndhurst holiday cottages to find your perfect home from home.