As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the New Forest, Florence Fortnam picks out a selection of walking, cycling, horse-riding and watersports activities in this glorious protected area in the south of England.
The best way to experience the New Forest is simply to get out and explore - be it on foot, on water, on two wheels or on horseback.
All throughout the New Forest there's the chance to take part in leisure activities of all types. For cyclists, 160km of waymarked cycle routes (easily accessible by train) challenge beginners and experts alike. Horse riders can benefit from a wealth of hacks and routes into the forest while it's just as easy to grab a map and ramble over the deer-filled heathland on foot. What's more, there's no reason to restrict yourself to land-based activities when you can try kayaking or canoeing up the Beaulieu River or explore the coastline whilst sailing.
New Forest Activities
Choose from a range of activities as varied as archery and treasure trails. A perfect location from which to explore the beauty of the Beaulieu countryside and winding trails towards Brockenhurst and beyond. You can also try your hand at canoeing alongside trained professionals at the Beaulieu River Nature Reserve, learning the history and traditions of the river along the way. Alternatively, be a little more adventurous and take part in a two-hour guided kayaking tour, exploring hidden creaks along the Beaulieu river.
A popular cycle hire service offering a range of bicycles (including new ‘electric bikes’) as well as guided tours. The website also features a range of manageable cycle routes including ‘Leafy Lanes’, a relaxing ride that explores the quiet lanes separating Brockenhurst, Boldre, Pilley and East End. newforestcyclehire.co.uk
Offering cycle hire, cycling day trips, weekend breaks as well as longer biking holidays from a converted railway carriage alongside the platform. An overview of Country Lanes' own cycle routes is available online. countrylanes.co.uk
Forest Leisure Cycling
Based in Burley, Forest Leisure’s flagship route is the ‘Deer Sanctuary’ trail, which gives the chance to encounter deer, horses, various birds as you cycle up towards the Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary. Many other routes are available to view on the website. forestleisurecycling.co.uk
Burley Villa School of Riding
Offering riding lessons in both traditional and Western saddles ranging from 90 minute beginner lessons to adventure days and BBQ trails. Alternatively, there’s the chance to stay at Burley Villa B&B with 2 hour group riding sessions included. burleyvilla.co.uk
Burley Manor Riding Stables
Set in the grounds of the Burley Manor Hotel, Burley’s stables offer both 1 and 2 hour rides as well as special events such as rides to nearby pubs. forestparkridingstables.co.uk
Forest Park Riding Stables
Forest Park caters for all levels and each ride has several escorts so that everyone can ride to their own ability. 2-hour hacks are available for experienced riders and include several long canters through some spectacular scenery. forestparkridingstables.co.uk
Bagnum Riding Stables
An established family business complete with outdoor riding school, show jumps and a number of practice Cross Country Fences. Bagnum also offers 1 or 2 hour hacks through the New Forest as well as half hour walk outs available for children. bagnumridingstables.co.uk
Ford Farm Stables
Catering for both novice and experienced riders, Ford Farm also hold a regular children’s club on Saturdays as well as other days during the holidays. fordfarmstables.co.uk
New Forest Water Park
Offering two lakes in which to take part in a range of water sports, the Water Parks also boasts a campsite for those looking to stay overnight. Learn to waterski or wakeboard or try the inflatable banana and tyre rides. Large groups can enjoy themselves on the water and then indulge in a local BBQ. newforestwaterpark.co.uk
For information on characterful places to stay, local food and drink, and nearby visitor attractions, see our Green Traveller's Guide to the New Forest