8 family-friendly walks in the New Forest

by Jan

Are you looking for family-friendly walks in the New Forest?  Well, we have a brilliant choice for you, no matter what your age or ability.

The New Forest offers something for everyone when it comes to walking.  The landscape is stunning, the trails are flat and best of all there’s lots of wild ponies to spot.  So, whether you fancy a woodland walk, a stroll on the heathland or a coastal hike, there’s a walking opportunity for you.

Having visited the New Forest since the children were toddlers, we’ve tried plenty of the walks and trails. It’s one of the most stunning areas in Hampshire and you’re guaranteed to find a route that suits you.  Here’s our pick of some brilliant family-friendly walks in the New Forest you should try.

Plus, when you’ve tried all the walks, here’s 30 other things to do in the New Forest.

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The Tall Trees Trail, Blackwater

  • Start point:      Blackwater car park (Rhinefield Ornamental Drive)
  • Distance:          1.5 miles (plus 1 mile for arboretum)
  • Refreshments:  Ice-cream van in car park
Tall Trees New Forest. Hampshire, UK

The first of our family walks in the New Forest is a short, circular walk near Brockenhurst.

The Tall Trees Trail at Blackwater is a woodland walk, comprising some of the oldest trees in the New Forest.

The Tall Trees trail is a family-friendly, circular walk of 1.5 miles which leads under some magnificent trees, including redwoods and two giant sequoias.  Information boards along the way provide a handy guide to what to look out for.

Finally, at the end of the Tall Trees trail you can do an additional walk around Blackwater Arboretum.  This arboretum is small but has a collection of over 100 tree species from around the world.  The Blackwater Arboretum Trail is about 1 mile.

To get to the Blackwater car park, take a scenic drive down the magnificent Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.

Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, Lyndhurst

  • Start point:           Bolderwood car park (free)
  • Distance:              1 or 2 miles
  • Refreshments:     Big picnic field near car park
Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary, New Forest, Hampshire, UK

Now, one of the best places for a nature walk near Lyndhurst is from the Bolderwood Green car park on Ornamental Drive.   The Bolderwood Deer Watch trail is ideal for nature-lovers as it leads directly to a purpose-built deer observation platform.

The viewing platform is the best place to see deer in the New Forest, as it overlooks the feeding area.  New Forest Rangers come come daily to the field to feed the deer (from Easter to September), so you’ll get a good view of the wild animals.

The Bolderwood Deer Walk is only half a mile each way but there are other routes you can follow too.  Take a left at the viewing platform, to follow the way-marked Radnor Trail.  This is a 2-mile trail which leads to the Radnor Monument.

Admission to Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary is free.

The Solent Way

  • Start point:       Milford-on-Sea
  • Distance:           3-12 miles (depending on which section you do)
  • Refreshments:  Pubs, cafés and tea rooms galore!
Bucklers Hard Boats, New Forest, Hampshire, UK

If you are looking for a long-distance walk in the New Forest, give the Solent Way a go.

The Solent Way runs for 60 miles on the coastal path from Milford-on-Sea to Emsworth Harbour.  Of course, you don’t have to walk it all in one go.  This long-distance hike is divided into 8 sections, so you can do as much or little as you please.  Each section varies from 3 to 12 miles.

The Solent Way is a picturesque coastal trail, which passes pretty harbours, charming villages, and historical attractions.  For wildlife enthusiasts, the walk provides a variety of natural landscapes with some rare and unusual species.

If you want further inspiration for walks in the New Forest, the Ordnance Survey Walking Guide is a popular option.  Or you could try 20 short walks, which is more accessible to all the family.

Milford-on-Sea to Hurst Castle

  • Start point:        Hurst Road East car park (SO41 0PY)
  • Distance:            4.5 miles
  • Refreshments:  The Lighthouse (Milford),  Refreshments van at Hurst Castle, The Gun Inn (Keyhaven)
Walk to Hurst Castle, Hampshire, UK

One of our favourite walks on the Solent Way is the first section from Milford-on-Sea.  This is a fantastic coastal walk for families as there is so much to see and do.

The walk starts on the shingle spit, which leads to Hurst Castle.  History lovers will enjoy a stop at this Tudor fortress, built in built in 1544 to protect the entrance to the Solent.  Hurst Castle now belongs to English Heritage.  Admission is cheap, so it’s worth a visit.  If not, you could stop outside for a coffee and look at the lighthouse.

From Hurst Castle, you can retrace your steps or return on the passenger ferry to Keyhaven Marshes.  This nature reserve provides a fabulous route for nature lovers and bird spotters.  It’s also a good spot for crabbing, so perfect fun for children.

Click here for details of the circular walk to Hurst Castle.  Please note that the path on the shingle spit is not ideal for buggies.

Beaulieu to Buckler's Hard

  • Start point:         Beaulieu village centre
  • Distance:             4.5 miles (approx 2 miles each way)
  • Refreshments:     Cafés in Beaulieu and Bucklers Hard
Image of Beaulieu estate in Beaulieu, New Forest

Another scenic walk on the Solent Way is the stretch from the charming village of Beaulieu to Buckler’s Hard.  It’s 2 miles each way and starts in Beaulieu village centre.  This riverside walk is on a flat, easy trail, which follows the route of the River Beaulieu.

On arrival, you can explore Buckler’s Hard, the shipbuilding village which provided the fleet for Admiral Nelson.  Then, have a wander round the Maritime Museum, pop into some of the houses, before stopping by the river for an ice-cream.

Afterwards, you can return on the same route.  Obviously, you could do this trail in reverse!

Admission to Buckler’s Hard is free, but there is a charge for the Maritime Museum and parking.

Burley Food Trail

  • Start point:       Burley Village Centre
  • Distance:            3.5 miles (short route) or 5 miles (long route)
  • Refreshments:  A grand choice of refreshment stops on the trail or in Burley
A Coven of witches, Burley, Hampshire, UK

The Burley Food Trail starts in the centre of Burley, a village steeped in legends of witches and dragons.

Families will love the short route, which takes you on a food tour of local tea rooms and pubs.  It’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular walks around Burley, as it’s bursting with opportunities to eat!  You really will be be spoilt for choice when it comes to sampling local New Forest produce such as fudge, cheese, and farmhouse cider.

If you’re feeling energetic,  extend you walk along the disused railway line to The Old Station House Tea Rooms at Holmsley.

Burley is also a fantastic places for hiring bikes in the New Forest.  There are nine traffic-free cycle routes which start in Burley and explore the surrounding area.

Click for more information about family cycling in the New Forest

Whitefield Moor, Brockenhurst

  • Start point:      Whitefield Moor car park (off Rhinefield Road)
  • Distance:          1.6 miles
  • Refreshments:   The Huntsman (2 miles drive) or picnic
Ober Water Whitefield Moor, New Forest, Hampshire, UK

Another popular circular walk near Brockenhurst is at Whitefield Moor.  Here,you’ll find two waymarked circular routes, both of which take you along the Ober Water.

From the car park follow the path until you reach Puttles Bridge.  This crosses a pretty stretch of stream, which flows from nearby Burley.  It’s a way-marked trail (the red route), which then follows through the Aldridge woodland until you come to 2 more footbridges.  Cross over the second one which returns back across open heathland to the car park.

The Whitefield Moor walk is ideal for families as you can paddle in the water.  You can also see ponies and cattle grazing in the heathland by the car park.

For full details of the family trail at Whitefield Moor, click here.

Ashleet Creek to Calshot

  • Start point:        Car park at Ashleet Creek
  • Distance:             2.8 miles (1.4 miles each way)
  • Refreshments:   Jolly Sailor Pub at Ashlett’s Creek or Calshott Activities Centre
Walking towards Calshot Beach huts

The last of our family walks in the New Forest is from Ashleet Creek near Fawley to Calshot.  It is a trail of contrasting landscapes, where the area’s industrial past blends seamlessly with the surrounding nature.

The walk starts at the slipway in Ashleet Creek, opposite a historic 19th century tidal mill.  There is then a choice of two footpaths, depending on whether it is high tide.

The trail to Calshot begins with a pretty country trail, but gradually leads to a more industrial landscape.  You’ll see Fawley Power Station and the factory where they paint the blades for wind turbines.  They are enormous!

As the trail reaches the spit at Calshot, you’ll have views across the Calshot Nature Reserve and a tidal pond.  You can stop at the café at Calshot Activities Centre or continue up to Calshot Castle, another of the Tudor defences on this coastline.

A map of our family-friendly walks in the New Forest

Have you tried any of our family walks in the New Forest?

We’d love to hear your comments below.


*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission. (Read our full Disclosure Policy)

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