Perfect Things to Do in the New Forest with Kids
See the wild ponies, explore the woodland and find Peppa Pig with the Plum Guide's expert tips on things to do in the New Forest with kids.
The wildlife’s in charge in the New Forest – and there have been great efforts made to keep it that way. Driving around the protected area, given National Park status in 2005, you’ll quickly find out that pigs, cattle, donkeys and the wild ponies have the right of way on the roads: and kids will no doubt be entertained to see ponies holding up the traffic.
The New Forest’s vast swathe of unspoilt heath and woodland, in Hampshire and Wiltshire, was created by William the Conqueror as a royal forest for hunting deer. And it remains a welcome expanse of green space, with the majestic pines, redwoods, oaks and yews providing the ideal backdrop for a countryside walk or cycle.
If that wasn’t kid-friendly enough, you’ll also find a theme park with a Peppa Pig themed area and a steam railway in this outdoorsy stretch of southern England. Where to find it all? Read on for Plum Guide's expert list of things to do in the New Forest with kids. And if you’re looking for accommodation, our professionally vetted homes are suitably child-friendly too.
Take a forest walk (or cycle)
The New Forest National Park is home to 140 miles of footpaths and 100 miles of cycle tracks through its open pasture, heathland and (obviously) forests. Basically, there's more than enough space to wear the kids out in. For impressive redwoods and firs, the Tall Trees Trail is a good option (its flat terrain means easy walking for little legs, too). Or the Blackwater Arboretum Sensory Trail offers azaleas, rhododendrons, tall sequoias and wooden forest-inspired sculptures – plus picnicking areas for those who require regular feeds. For cycling, hire a bike in Burley, then follow the nine-mile route to Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary.
See the ponies
No list of things to do in the New Forest with kids would be complete without mentioning the area's resident ponies. Wild ponies have roamed and grazed the New Forest National park for millennia. And since there are about 5,000 here, you won’t have much difficulty finding them. To explore the forest on (tame) horseback, head to the Burley Villa riding school. And if that isn't enough for horse-mad kids, Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park is just outside the New Forest and teaches all about the rare-breed horses’ role in history, with carriage rides, tractor rides and opportunities to feed the resident animals. That isn't all there is to do in Dorset, either – check out our round-up of places to visit in Dorset for more.
Immerse them in Peppa Pig World
If you can stomach the sheer pink-hued cheesiness, they’ll love a visit to Paultons Park, the home of Peppa Pig World. It’s been voted the number one theme park in the UK for the past five years in a row (well, at least you know you're giving them the best of the best) and is home to more the 70 rides and attractions, including swinging pirate ships, go karts, dragon roundabouts and old-school carousels. Peppa Pig World itself is filled with themed rides and plenty of photo opps with their favourite characters. If your little 'uns are on the littler side, this is definitely one of the best things to do in the New Forest with kids.
Wander Exbury Gardens
If your family is known to go from stressed to calm in seconds if someone puts you in front of some greenery, then Exbury Gardens is your place. Expect 200 acres of woodland, gardens stretching along the fancily named Beaulieu River, daffodil meadows, hydrangea and maple walks, precision-placed sundial gardens and views over the water to the Isle of Wight. Plus, the kids will love a ride on the steam railway.
Hire a boat at Lymington
Fancy impressing your kids with your seafaring knowledge for the day? Well, you can hire a yacht and be skippered around the Solent by a professional, to enjoy this part of southern England from a different, more watery perspective. Luxury boat service Lymington Boat Hire will have you covered for groups of up to 10.
Meet the animals at Longdown Activity Farm
Immerse your kids in the ways of the countryside at Longdown Activity Farm. They can bottle-feed calves and kid goat, and meet fuzzy chicks while learning about how they grow from eggs in the Chick Shed. Other animals residing at the farm including pigs, alpacas, rabbits, horses, ponies and miniature donkeys. And when they'r'e bored of animals, there are go karts, trampolines, mini tractors and a crazy golf course to let them loose on.
While Plum Guide has always focused on big global cities, many of us aren’t ready for international jetsetting and bustling metropolises just yet. So our fastidious homes critics have been busy hunting for the perfect country boltholes and properties in laidback little towns that are perfectly placed for outdoorsy staycations. The Wind in the Willows and the Hare & Hound, both in Brockenhurst, should be big enough to fit the whole clan.