New Forest National Park Travel Guide
Granted National Park status in 2005, the New Forest covers approximately 220 square miles of Hampshire and southern Wiltshire. The area was famously named a Royal Forest in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, and as well as forest the area is made up of vast tracts of unspoilt woodland, heathland and river valleys that have remained largely unchanged for thousands of years.
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The New Forest is roughly two-hour’s drive from our port in Newhaven or two and a half hours from Dover. From whichever port you choose, the English road network is fast and easily accessible if you’re planning on taking your own vehicle. Public transport is also very good and the train will usually take you into London where you can change for the New Forest.
What to See in the New Forest
Lyndhurst is the largest village in the New Forest and is home to the New Forest Visitor Centre. The centre incorporates the New Forest Museum, gift shop, reference library and Visitor Information Centre and gives a unique insight into the Forest's history and heritage. Lyndhurst Church, St Michael and All Angels, is also worth visiting. Built in the 1860s out of different coloured stone, it has stained glass windows by Burne-Jones and Morris. The village also has a wide range of shops, tea rooms, pubs, cafes and restaurants to discover, as well as the Meridien Modena garage which has Ferraris and Maseratis on display.
There are hundreds of New Forest walks for you to enjoy throughout the National Park, and there are very few restrictions on walking in the area. Walking is the ideal way to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere of the Forest and you may even spot a deer or two. There are endless tracks you can follow but if you’re new to the area it’s a good idea to take a map with you. The New Forest has the benefit of plenty of car parks, which provide perfect start and end points for the majority of New Forest walks, and a good pub is never far away.
The New Forest is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities and there are loads of activity centres that can organise these for you. From cycling and pony rides to canoeing, kayaking, archery and paintballing, there’s something for everyone. You can also head to the 50 acre New Forest Water Park where you can participate in water-skiing, wakeboarding and windsurfing, or for a more relaxing day take a picnic and go on a scenic boat ride. For any budding survivalists there are organised bushcraft days where you will be taught how to build a shelter and find water, warmth and food with the guidance of your expert instructor.
On the banks of the Beaulieu River, in the heart of the New Forest National Park, you will find the peaceful hamlet of Buckler’s Hard. Famed for its shipbuilding and home to the ships built for Nelson's fleet at Trafalgar, you can visit the Maritime Museum which tells the story of this unique village. You should also make time to visit the Buckler's Hard Story which includes reconstructed cottage interiors and the Shipwright's Cottage on the village street. It will give you an insight into what village life was like at Buckler's Hard in the 18th century.
Image credit: Chris Parfitt
Why Visit the New Forest?
The New Forest is popular as a tourist destination due to the hundreds of miles of beautiful footpaths and open heathland, the breathtaking coastline and the many sites of historical interest.
The perfect destination for those with a love of the outdoors, the New Forest offers wildlife, stunning scenery, and plenty of outdoor activities such as cycling, pony trekking, and kayaking.
It’s also fantastic for those who just appreciate a ramble through nature, stopping off at historic sites and cosy cafes.
Image credit: Susanne Nilsson
WE'RE AWARD WINNING
It’s always a proud moment when you’re recognised for your good work, we’re honoured to have been named as Europe's and the World’s Leading Ferry Operator in the 2015 World Travel Awards. We've won these awards for 5 years running.