The New Forest offers plenty of outdoor space for families with idyllic glades, ancient woodland, open moors, heathland, cliff top walks and an abundance of wildlife.
Whether you are visiting for a week long staycation with kids or planning a New Forest weekend break there are plenty of fun local activities and other things to do in the local area.
Self Catering New Forest Accommodation For Families
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The family friendly self catering and independent places picked below offer a chance for families to continue to embrace the great outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty and flora and fauna, and of course its famous resident New Forest ponies.
From £81 per night for quaint New Forest holiday cottages with two bedrooms to luxury four bedroomed holiday lodges for 10 guests at £495 per night, these properties in the New Forest offer a family summer holiday staycation respite in and around the spacious New Forest National Park.
Slide the airbnb images across to see these beautiful properties. From New Forest homes nestled within the park to lodges opening onto the water to luxury New Forest cottages, a perfect family staycation awaits.
Things to do in the New Forest & surrounding areas
Note: It is not known what attractions will be open at the time of writing. It is expected that advance tickets will be necessary so attractions and zoos can manage numbers.
Pony Treks in the New Forest
- There are various places where you can pony trek. This New Forest site offers plenty of information.
- At the New Forest Wildlife Park, near Ashurst, enjoy seeing mammals such as otters or head over and see various species of owls and butterflies. To wear out little ones there is a fantastic adventure playground for two different aged groups 0-6 Mini Go Wild has sand pits, diggers, slides, climbing frames and swings, all in a safe and stimulating environment. Older ones can Go Wild on a zip wire, log jumble, ‘birds’ nests’ climbing ropes, swings, spider nets and more.
North Solent Nature Reserve
- One of Hampshire’s largest nature reserves, the North Solent National Nature Reserve is within the New Forest, meeting both the sea and the mouth of the Beaulieu River. It follows much of the river estuary through heathland, ancient woodland and valley mires, with grazing marsh found by the coast where rare bird species can be spotted. There are no toilet facilities but the nearest village is Beaulieu. If you have dogs they are welcome all year round.
- A short drive away from the city centre of Winchester, set in acres of land, lies another popular attraction – Marwell Zoo. There is even a tropical house area if you need to warm up on a chilly day.
- Beaulieu National Motor Museum is one of the best known other attractions near Peppa Pig World, and it offers so much for all the family, whatever their age. From legendary F1 cars and land speed record breakers for the speed freaks to a new exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
- Alternatively step inside Palace House, once the gatehouse of the medieval Beaulieu Abbey, has been the Montagu family home since 1538.
- Visit the topiary garden where you can see all your favourite characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Hop on the Monorail for a bird’s-eye view!
- Children can let off steam exploring the vast open space in the grounds and gardens; they might even find some fairy houses along the Mill Pond walk. They’ll love the experience of riding on the ‘Skytrain’ and Veteran Bus. There are also kids’ favourites on display: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mr Bean’s Mini and the flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter.
- Children drive mini motorcars during school holidays and term time weekends.
- Enjoy a free Family Fun Trails. A series of fun teasers and puzzles leading through the main Beaulieu attractions or play in the Mini Motor play area – with swings, climbing frame and more. At Beaulieu you certainly won’t be stuck with things to do in the New Forest with kids.
- Exbury Gardens are in the New Forest and open from Spring (late March) to Autumn. The Gardens are within a 200 acre site with spectacular floral displays with a myriad of pathways to explore.All ages will enjoy the 20 minute trip aboard the Steam Railway. Children will love the adventure play area and some cake in the tearoom.
Peppa Pig World
- Love or loathe her, kids adore her and Peppa Pig World within Paultons Park is a perfect visit for little ones. Read our first timers guide to Peppa Pig World here. (If you want to find a hotel closer to Peppa Pig World, see here.)
Monkey World, Dorset
- Monkey World is about 40 minutes drive from the New Forest. Monkey World is a monkey and ape rescue centre based in Dorset focussing on Rescue & Rehabilitation. All the animals are rescued from various places in conjunction with help from foreign governments. Foreign governments from all over the world assist to stop the illegal smuggling of apes out of Africa and Asia.
- Longdown Activity Farm in Ashurst, the New Forest, is the perfect place to interact with animals and enjoy tractor rides, play crazy golf and indulge in indoor and outdoor play areas. Children get to experience various pet encounters and bottle feed goats and calves. Top tip – pick up one of Farmer Bryan’s story books about the animals on the farm!
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to the Royal Navy’s most famous warship, HMS Victory. Best known for her role in the Battle of Trafalgar, the Victory currently has a dual role as the Flagship of the First Sea Lord and as a living museum to the Georgian Navy. At this dockyard, you can go onboard and explore real ships and submarines. Kids can use the climbing wall inside Action Stations or try simulators, the Ninja Force assault course, and more.
- Claire from Tin Box Traveller add, “Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a full on day out with action, history and interactive exhibits. There are 11 attractions in total ranging from Nelson’s flag ship, HMS Victory, to harbour cruises and high ropes in the Action Stations boat house. It’s impossible to see and do everything in a day, so the good news is your tickets are valid for a year. Throughout the year the dockyard also hosts music events and festivals. For more of her tips on things to do in Portsmouth with kids see here.
- Furzey Gardens is a little haven for small ones, and of the best things to do in the New Forest with toddlers. Enjoy activity trails and hidden secrets in this enchanting informal woodland Garden in the New Forest. The Tea Rooms and facilities are open seasonally, but the gardens are open year round. Hint – look out for the fairy doors! Children will love playing hide and seek in the play area, the round houses and having adventures in “Mrs Tiggy Winkle” the boat on dry land.
- Hurst Castle is a remnant from Henry VIII. This castle by the sea was used as a prison for eminent 17th century captives, including Charles I. It was later strengthened during the 19th and 20th centuries and played a role in defending the western Solent from invasion threats from the Napoleonic Wars to the Second World War. Enjoy spectacular view and travel though time to glimpse into the living conditions of soldiers during the First and Second World Wars.
- I’m a little bit obsessed with escape rooms and the Houdini Escape Room looks fantastic. Choose from Escape from Alcatraz, Titanic or Extinct it is a great activity for some family fun. There is no restriction on age, and all rooms are safe for all ages. Very young players may find the puzzles very demanding. Therefore children under 12 MUST be accompanied by an adult in Escape from Alcatraz, and children under 16 MUST be accompanied by an adult in Escape from Titanic and Extinct. (There is no charge for children under 6)
- Emirates Spinnaker Tower is a 170-metre (560 ft) landmark observation tower in Portsmouth, England, UK. Kids will be impressed with the glass floor – the perfect opportunity to lie down and watch the world below.