Today we want to share our 3-day itinerary in the New Forest National Park, Hampshire. This beautiful ancient woodland in the south of England is perfect for a weekend getaway.
The New Forest is a hotspot for walkers, cyclists and nature enthusiasts. It offers quaint country villages, traditional pubs and ponies. However, there is so much more to the New Forest. It stretches as far as the coast and is also a magnet for visitors seeking fine dining and luxury spa experiences.
In our 3-day itinerary, we include all the best things to do on a long weekend in the New Forest. Whether you are looking to explore the ancient woodland, enjoy leisurely lunches or chill by the sea, we have some ideas for you. It’s the perfect guide for anyone needing inspiration for a getaway in Hampshire’s New Forest.
Unlike most of our trips, we didn’t take the children, but all the activities are family-friendly or perfect for couples. So, to find out what we got up to, read on for our perfect 3-day itinerary in the New Forest.
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Things to know before heading to the New Forest
What is the New Forest?
Don’t be fooled by the name. Firstly, there’s nothing new about the New Forest. William the Conquerer created it in 1079 as a royal hunting ground. Secondly, less than 25% of the forest is woodland.
However, the New Forest is one of the UK’s 15 National Parks and covers an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has a stunning landscape, which encompasses open heathland, ancient woodland, and a beautiful coastline. The New Forest also has a diverse range of rare plants and animals. The most famous of these are its free-roaming ponies, which can be seen all over the forest.
How many days do you need for the New Forest?
We often go for a day trip to the New Forest. However, to make the most of this national park, allow between 2 and 5 days. This gives time for fantastic hikes and bike rides, a visit to the main villages, tourist attractions and Hampshire coast.
When is the best time to visit the New Forest?
The New Forest is stunning all year round. If you want to spend time at the coast, the summer is better, but it will be more busy.
Autumn is always a special time to visit. If you go late September, you may come across free-roaming pigs. Pannage is an ancient practice when the pigs are set free to go hunting for acorns on the forest floor.
Accommodation in the New Forest
The New Forest is packed with accommodation to suit all budgets. From fancy spa hotels to campsites, the New Forest has something for everyone.
At the top end, you have luxury spa hotels like the Chewton Glen Hotel in New Milton and country houses, like the elegant Rhinefield House Hotel in Brockenhurst. I’ve always fancied staying in the Pig or its sister hotel, the Limewood, but they are beyond our budget.
We booked a cosy, re-purposed granary barn on a working farm near Cadnam. This former granary still had its original beams and was a perfect hideaway for two.
If you’re travelling with children, we have previously stayed at several holiday parks in the New Forest, including Sandy Balls Holiday Village and the Oakdene Forest Park. These have lots of family-friendly facilities and you can get some good deals if you go off-peak.
If you want to go glamping in the New Forest, you could stay in a cosy log cabin at Midgham Farm near Fordingbridge.
Of course, if you don’t want to stay under canvas, there are plenty of other self-catering options in the New Forest.
How to get to the New Forest
The easiest way to get to the New Forest is by car. Living in Surrey, we just had to hop on the M3/M27, and we were there in just over an hour.
The New Forest is a popular destination for day-trippers from London, as it is so accessible.
You can get there by car from London in under by 2 hours (M3/M27) or by train in 90 minutes. Cheap regular trains run from London to Brockenhurst every hour.
Getting around in the New Forest
If you don’t have a car, there is a network of regular buses that run around the New Forest. The Blue Star route 6 goes from Southampton to Lymington, stopping at many of the major villages.
Our perfect 3-day itinerary in The New Forest, Hampshire
Hopefully we’ve helped with some basic information for your trip planning. So, without further delay, read on for how to spend 72 hours in the New Forest.
Day 1: Brockenhurst
Walking near Brockenhurst
Day 1 of our 3-day New Forest itinerary is all about Brockenhurst. Located in the heart of the New Forest, Brockenhurst has plenty of choice for walking and enjoying beauty spots.
Start your visit at Blackwater Woods, where you’ll find some of the oldest trees in the New Forest. To get to the Blackwater car park, head down the magnificent Rhinefield Ornamental Drive, which is a treat in itself.
The Tall Trees Trail is a family-friendly, circular walk of 1.5 miles. It follows an easy route under some ancient trees, including mighty redwoods and two giant sequoias. Information boards along the way provide a handy guide to what to look out for.
When you return to the start, pop into the Blackwater Arboretum. This small arboretum has a collection of over 100 tree species from around the world.
The Pig Hotel at Brockenhurst
Of course, the New Forest is not all about hiking through the woods. In fact, it’s a foodie haven, with several award-winning restaurants. So on day two of our weekend itinerary in the New Forest we headed for lunch at the Pig Hotel in Brockenhurst.
The Pig is a boutique, country hotel which is famous for the quality of its local ingredients and dishes. Visitors come from near and far to sample the 25-mile menu in the main restaurant, so book well in advance.
However, the good news is that you can eat in the hotel garden without a reservation. So, this is where we headed. On the terrace they have an enormous wood-fired oven, where you can see the chef cooking flat breads .
The vibe in the garden is extremely informal and perfect for a laid-back lunch in the sun. We tried the pastrami and pickled chillies and the vegetarian option with Isle of Wight tomatoes and oyster mushrooms. Both were delicious.
Before leaving, take a wander round the Pig’s kitchen garden. Here you’ll see a very impressive selection of homegrown veg (some of which I hadn’t even heard of).
The chef creates all the dishes at the Pig using locally sourced produce. Many vegetables come from this cute cottage garden. They even keep their own pigs and quails.
A visit to Brockenhurst
The last stop on the first day of our New Forest weekend is at the village of Brockenhurst.
Brockenhurst is a charming, village with thatched cottages, traditional pubs, and tea rooms. Although, Brockenhurst is the largest village by population in the New Forest, the village is fairly small. The main street runs through Brockenhurst, finishing at the Watersplash, a picturesque ford.
Don’t be surprised to see ponies or donkeys roaming around. We came across ponies standing firm in the middle of the road, unwittingly causing chaos for all around.
If you are self-catering, Brockenhurst has a couple of small supermarkets for basic groceries.
Day 2: Exploring Lymington
Day two of our 3-day itinerary in the New Forest is about exploring the ancient seaport of Lymington.
However, our first stop for day two is a walk at Whitefield Moor.
A walk at Whitefield Moor
At Whitefield Moor you can choose from two short trails which lead from the car park to the Ober Water. This pretty stream flows from nearby Burley and is ideal for paddling. It is a picturesque area, and you’re likely to see more ponies and some Galway cattle.
After a short walk, it’s time for Lymington, on the south coast of England.
Lymington is a historic port town on the edge of the New Forest. It boasts a rich maritime history and today is a major yachting centre.
Start your visit to Lymington along the cobbled streets of the Old Town and head down to the Quay. You can have a mooch in the independent shops along the way.
At Lymington Quay, stop for a drink at the Ship Inn overlooking the Quay. It’s a great spot for people and boat watching.
Afterwards, we walked along to the Marina. However, you could walk the first stretch of the long-distance Solent Way to Milford-on-Sea.
The Elderflower Restaurant, Lymington
With a choice of pubs, cafés, and restaurants in Lymington, there is something to suit every budget.
Now, we usually like nothing better than fish and chips by the sea. However, on this occasion we had opted for some exquisite fine dining at the Elderflower Restaurant on Quay Street.
We were first tempted to visit the Elderflower after seeing the tv series “Remarkable Places to Eat” with Fred Sirieix.
Andrew du Bourg, former head chef at Chewton Glen, and his wife run The Elderflower together. The couple produce unique tasting menus with Michelin star-quality food and presentation.
If you fancy a treat, it really is worth a visit. The food is amazing. Of course, it is extremely popular, so book in advance.
Day 3: Beaulieu
The village of Beaulieu
The final day of our 3-day itinerary in the New Forest is about exploring the south-east corner of the New Forest near Beaulieu.
Beaulieu is a picturesque medieval village which dates to the 13th century. It is part of the extensive Beaulieu Estate, belonging to the Montagu Family. After a quick walk round the quaint village, head for the National Motor Museum.
National Motor Museum, Beaulieu
The National Motor Museum is a great day out for all ages and has plenty of attractions. Even better, you don’t have to be a car fanatic to love the museum. After you have seen the car exhibitions, there’s lots to see in the grounds. You can explore Palace House and gardens, visit the ruins of Beaulieu Abbey, or take a ride on the Monorail.
Time your visit to see the falconry displays, which take place twice a day in the summer.
After the Motor Museum, we headed to the Royal Oak Inn on the outskirts of Beaulieu. This is a great traditional pub, and you can often see ponies lounging on the green in front. We stopped for scampi and chips before heading to Buckler’s Hard.
Our final stop on our 3-day itinerary in the New Forest is at Buckler’s Hard.
Buckler’s Hard was once a thriving shipbuilding village on the banks of the River Beaulieu. In fact, it was here that they built the ships for Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar.
Today the tranquil village stands just as it did all those years ago. Of course, instead of sailors it is now is open to visitors to explore.
Admission to Buckler’s Yard is free, though there’s a small charge for parking and the Maritime Museum.
After visiting the museum, take a stroll down the High Street, between the two rows of red houses. Stop for a peek in the Shipwright’s Cottage to see how it would have looked in the 18th Century. Or visit St Mary’s Chapel, which still holds regular services.
It doesn’t take long to visit the village, as you can only enter a couple of houses. However, it has a scenic spot by the river, where you can relax with an ice cream. If you have time, take a boat ride or do some paddle-boarding on the River Beaulieu.
Then it is homeward bound. Adieu, New Forest. Until the next time…
More things to do near the New Forest
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