Less than 90 minutes from London, the New Forest is a great choice for long weekends or mid-week short breaks away from the city. Swap the humdrum of the daily commute and a fast-paced lifestyle for the serenity of the forest and the chance to take life a little slower. Sometimes, a short break of just three or four nights is all you need to reset and recharge. But with less time to fit everything in, how do you make the most of a long weekend or a New Forest midweek break? We have put together some fun ideas on how to spend a New Forest short break.
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Day 1 – Relax and refuel
You will likely arrive at your holiday cottage late afternoon on your first day, or if you drive down after work on a Friday, it might be well into the evening before you get here. Either way, you will be more than ready to kick back and relax with a well-deserved glass of wine.
Forget cooking on your first night; head to the nearest village pub to taste the local fare before heading back to the cottage to relax. Most of our cottages are conveniently located within walking distance of a pub, so once you have arrived for your short break in Hampshire, you can relax without the worry of having to drive again.
If you have booked a cottage with a hot tub, you can soak the rest of the evening away beneath the stars or cuddle up on the sofa beside a roaring log fire. Here are some of our favourite cottages with hot tubs in the New Forest.
Day 2 – Explore and indulge
Well rested and eager to explore, your first full day is made for adventures so get up early, and make the most of the time you have. With miles of walking routes, cycle paths and bridleways through the New Forest, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the unique landscape, whatever the time of year.
Explore on two wheels…
Ditch the car and explore the New Forest by bike, whether you are a seasoned cyclist or you simply enjoy a casual ride with the kids. There is a network of cycle trails that crisscross through the New Forest, connecting villages and some of the must-see sights of the area. Check out these cycling routes to find a range of trails for different abilities, as well as information on where to hire bikes during your weekend in the New Forest.
Head off on foot…
If you prefer to explore on foot, there are plenty of walking routes that pass through many of the quaint New Forest villages, where you can stop for ice cream or grab a pub lunch as part of your adventure. Head over to this list of the best walks in the New Forest to find easy 2.5-mile walks perfect for families or more challenging 9-mile hikes that take in the New Forest’s heathlands for those who love a real taste of the outdoors.
Take to four legs…
One of the best experiences you can have in the New Forest is spotting wildlife such as wild ponies and deer from horseback. Often, instructors will know where to find peaceful wildlife hot spots that may be a little off the beaten track. There are several horse-riding experiences available in the New Forest, accommodating all abilities.
Stop for a pub lunch…
However, you choose to explore the New Forest, incorporating a pub lunch will definitely complete the experience! You will find plenty of pubs to choose from dotted along the cycle and walking routes, so why not plan your route before you leave and pick a pub to aim for? It is even possible to book horse-riding experiences where you can tether your trusty steed in the beer garden while you grab lunch or a cold drink! Here are some of our favourite pubs in the New Forest to try during your short break.
Time for some sightseeing?
It is possible to spend the whole day exploring the corners of the New Forest so we wouldn’t be surprised if you do not have time to fit anything else into day one. If you do find yourself with a couple of hours to spare, we would recommend stopping off in one of these quaint villages to discover their New Forest charm.
Beaulieu – More than just a village, the Beaulieu estate is home to Buckler’s Hard and the National Motor Museum.
Brockenhurst – Characterised by its Georgian and Victorian red brick buildings, this peaceful village is a favourite spot to see wild ponies strolling leisurely down the road.
Lymington – A pretty port town on the west bank of the Lymington River with a wonderful selection of boutique shops, markets and local produce.
After a busy day of exploring, you will be ready for a good meal and chilled evening. Dine in on your second evening and fire up the BBQ! Most of our large cottages offer big gardens with lots of space for a big group to while away the evening. We also have a collection of romantic cottages perfect for two, often with outdoor space where you can relax together.
Hold a movie or games night…
Make the most of the facilities in your holiday cottage, especially if you have treated yourself to somewhere with a huge Smart TV or a games room. Challenge each other to a game of pool, table tennis or darts or stick on a movie and serve popcorn and ice cream halfway through!
Day 3 – Action and adventure
The New Forest is packed with fun activities, whether you are a couple taking a romantic New Forest short break or an energetic family keen to try new things while you’re away.
Head to the New Forest Water Park for a whole host of water-based activities for thrill-seeking families! Challenge each other on the 4000-square-metre inflatable aqua park, try your hand at wakeboarding or explore the freshwater lake from a kayak or stand up paddleboard.
Spend a peaceful morning kayaking down the Beaulieu River with New Forest Activities or paddle across the water from Keyhaven Quay to Hurst Castle or explore the West Solent with The New Forest Paddlesport Company.
Go for a picnic lunch…
Pack a picnic and after an active morning, drive to one of the New Forest’s many beauty spots to picnic in the shade. Nothing says summer quite like laying out a blanket and tucking into a spread of finger sandwiches, crisps and dips!
Enjoy a fun but chilled afternoon...
Extend your picnic into the afternoon and make the most of being outdoors on a nice day. Take a football and a bat or ball to keep children entertained, or head somewhere with adventure playgrounds and activities for children such as Moors Valley Country Park.
Dine out somewhere special…
It’s your last night, so take the opportunity to go all out and treat yourselves to dinner somewhere special. Try the Elderflower in Lymington for a unique dining experience, The Pig in Brockenhurst, a favourite for families and lovers of homegrown produce, or The Jetty in Mudeford for beautiful views and exquisite seafood. Here are some of our favourite restaurants in the New Forest.
Day 4 – Sightseeing before you say goodbye
It's time to go home, but not before you set yourselves up for the journey with a hearty breakfast and stroll beside the sea. The perfect way to end your midweek break or a long weekend in the New Forest is to head to Milford-on-Sea for the last few hours of your trip. Grab breakfast at somewhere like Hurst on the Hill, where four paws are welcome too or Needles Eye Café on the promenade before walking it off with a stroll along the stone causeway to Hurst Castle.
Got any time left?
If you have a few more hours to spare, why not end your weekend in the New Forest by exploring some more of the coast? Our guide to the New Forest’s beaches and coastal spots will give you a tour of the area before you head home.
Where to stay for a New Forest short break
This charming thatched cottage enjoys a rural countryside location where families can relax and unwind, making the most of a private outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, table tennis and trampoline – there’s even a gym for fitness fans! With loads to do and plenty of space inside and out, it is just right for a New Forest weekend break with the family.
- Best for: families
- Sleeps: 10
- Dog-friendly: 1 pup welcome
Set on stilts among the trees this romantic cabin is in a peaceful position beside the Beaulieu River. Just moments from the historic attractions of the Beaulieu Estate, this romantic hideaway offers plenty to see and do from its doorstep, not to mention the network of New Forest trails to explore.
- Best for: couples
- Sleeps: 2
- Dog-friendly: 1 pup welcome
A spectacular property in a cliff-top position close to a set of steps that descend to the beach below. With beautiful sea views and a stunning suntrap garden, it is just perfect for those craving fresh sea air during their weekend in the New Forest. A 10-minute walk will take you into the village with a selection of shops, cafes, pubs and walks.
- Best for: being by the sea
- Sleeps: 6
- Dog-friendly: No dogs.
Have we inspired you to book a New Forest short break? Whether you’re planning a long weekend over a bank holiday, a midweek break to avoid the crowds or an escape in the summer, our collection of short breaks in the New Forest and Hampshire are perfect when you need to get away to the forest to refuel for a few days.