48 hours in the New Forest

The New Forest National Park and surrounding areas has it all – great countryside, beaches, country pubs and some top tourist attractions.

The actual park is a mosaic of ancient and ornamental woodland, open heather-covered heaths, rivers and valley mires, a coastline of mudflats and saltmarshes, and pretty, villages.

It is also home to the world-famous New Forest ponies and the Beaulieu motor museum.

To the south are some stunning beaches and views across to the Isle of Wight.

The New Forest is a great to take the family and get out and about with nature – here are a few ideas.

1. Get out in the forest

New Forest
Walk, cycle, enjoy the great British outdoors. Bikes can be hired and there are some great routes, probably the best the seven-mile route that follows the old Burley-to-Brockenhurst rail line.

The walking is really easy – no huge hills here – plus you get the chance to get up close to the forest’s famous horses. And donkeys – and deer if you get really lucky.

There are cycle routes and walking maps that can be downloaded.

2. Go to the beach

Probably the best-known beach is found at Bournemouth and it has a great expanse of sand.

Bournemouth can get pretty crowded in the summer but is a great place for the kids with its flat and easy walk into the water.

Track back east and the coastline gets more dramatic, with the high clifftops of Milford and Barton, and great walks along pebbly beaches.

From Milford you can walk to Hurst Castle and gaze upon the famous Needles of the Isle of Wight.

3. Swim outdoors

There is nothing more refreshing than a swim in the sea but the waters around the south coast can get a bit rough.

Instead, head for the Lymington Sea Water Baths.

Dating back to 1833, they were restored and re-opened in 2012 and is a great – and value-for-money – day out.

The baths are 110m long and are so much more than swimming. There are kayaks, obstacle courses and zorbing – all at extra cost but to get in and swim is just £2.50 for an adult and £1.50 a child.

4. Beaulieu

Okay, £49 for a family of four isn’t cheap but – if you Gift Aid the admission fee – you can get into Beaulieu free for the rest of the year.

Your ticket gets you into the Palace House and gardens, a ride on the monorail, children’s playground, World of Top Gear and, of course, the world-renowned motor museum.

The motor museum is home to over 250 vehicles tell the story of motoring on the roads and circuits of Britain, from pioneering origins to the present day.

Kids big and small will love the land speed section with the iconic Bluebird but the family favourite is the 1969 Porsche 917 (below) driven by Steve McQueen in the 1971 film Le Mans.

5. Go to a country pub

The back lanes are stuffed full of quaint old pubs and they pretty much all do food.

In fact, there are so many they even get their own road signs.

Be warned – some have odd opening hours so always best to check ahead.

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