Car-free Guide to the New Forest National Park
Updated: Jan 11
Our guide to travelling to and around the New Forest National Park without a car.
The unique geography of the New Forest National Park is linked to the rest of Britain via fast mainline train connections: once there, the fragrant woods and heaths are a cyclist’s paradise, and there's the wonderful New Forest Tour to help you make the most of this magical landscape.
A. Getting to the New Forest National Park without a car:
By Train: Getting to the New Forest by train can be easy: Brockenhurst station is right in the middle of the National Park, and is served by over one hundred mainline trains every day. South West Trains operate regular services from London Waterloo (just over an hour and a half), Basingstoke, Winchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, Poole and Weymouth to Brockenhurst; Cross Country Trains connect the North and Midlands (Birmingham), Oxford and Reading to Brockenhurst. In and around the New Forest, there are additional railway stations at Ashurst (New Forest), Beaulieur Road, Sway, Hinton Admiral, Lymington (Town and Pier stations), New Milton, and Totton; many of these are served by additional stopping services.
By Coach or Bus: Both National Express and Megabus link destinations across the country to major hubs such as Ringwood and Bournemouth, just outside the New Forest – and with great connections into the National Park; there are also some National Express services to Lyndhurst and Lymington. Additionally, several other bus services serve the New Forest from the surrounding region: The Bluestar 6 service from Southampton The More X1/X2 from Bournemouth The More X3 from Salisbury and Bournemouth The Salisbury Reds X7 from Salisbury to Southampton. If you intend to make onward travel in the New Forest using the New Forest Tour (more information below), you can purchase your Tour ticket on the connecting service, and enjoy free travel into the New Forest.
By Ferry: If you are visiting from the Isle of Wight, Wightlink operates ferry services from Yarmouth to Lymington, on the southern edge of the New Forest. You can also make the crossing from Southampton to Hythe (on the eastern edge of the New Forest) by ferry with the Hythe Ferry.
You can find a full public transport access map, showing how services to the New Forest link in with the New Forest Tour services (see below) here.
B. Getting around without a car:
By Train: If you are making a short hop across the National Park, the railway line runs from the north-east via Ashurst (New Forest), Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Sway, New Milton and Hinton Admiral before continuing on to the south-west: various local services connect these stations. A branch line connects Brockenhurst to Lymington, linking to ferry services to and from the Isle of Wight at Lymington Pier.
By Bus: The New Forest Tour By far the most convenient and comprehensive way to travel around the New Forest National Park by public transport is the New Forest Tour. Running across the key summer season of 29 June to 15 September, its three inter-connecting circular routes link many of the major sites, accommodation centres, towns and villages of the National Park. Operating a hop-on, hop-off service, tickets cost £13 for one day (£6 for children), with considerable discounts for longer durations (£26 for five days, for example). There is a 10% discount if you book the New Forest Tour online. This ticket allows you unlimited travel on all three routes across the Forest. There are also spaces to take your bikes on the buses (more information on cycling below). The three colour-coded routes are as follows:
The Red Route loops around the wild north of the Park: Lyndhurst - Holmsley - Burley – Crow - Ringwood - Fordingbridge – Sandy Balls Holiday Centre - Brook - Cadnam – Bartley – Ashurst
The Green Route links many of the south-west New Forest’s key attractions: Lyndhurst – Hollands Wood - Brockenhurst - Lymington - Beaulieu – Exbury Gardens - Beaulieu – Denny Wood
The Blue Route links the Forest and coastal towns to the south-east: Brockenhurst - Setley - Lymington - Everton - Keyhaven – Milford on Sea - Shorefield – Barton on Sea - Naish - Walkford – New Milton – Bashley – Thorney Hill – Burley – Holmsely
The Beach Bus During the school summer holidays until the 1st of September, the Beach Bus links Hythe with Lymington, calling at popular attractions including Bucklers Hard, Exbury Gardens and Lepe Country Park. Services during the summer holidays run hourly, seven days a week.
Other buses: The New Forest tour is supplemented by year-round local bus services run by Bluestar and More Wilts & Dorset. The X1 and X2 link Lymington, Everton and New Milton, continuing on to Bournemouth. The X3 skirts the west of the National Park between Fordingbridge and Ringwood, with onward connections north to Salisbury and south-west to Bournemouth. Bluestar’s services 8 and 9 skirt the east of the park, but the most useful services is the 6, which links Lymington, Brockenhurst, Lyndhurst, and Ashurst; continuing on to Totton and Southampton.
The New Forest offers a landscape criss-crossed by quiet country roads, as well as a fantastic network of way-marked cycling routes. The terrain is largely flat, making cycling an easy and enjoyable way to get around for people of all ages and abilities.
There are several cycle providers in the New Forest National Park, most providing bike hire and often with lots more besides: from handy local tips and advice to accessories, maps and guides. These include: Cycle Experience Country Lanes Forest Leisure Cycling AA Bike Hire Sandy Balls Cycle Centre
There are dedicated bike spaces on almost all mainline train services (and many local ones), but to avoid problems or disappointment, it is always best to reserve a space for your bike in advance. To do this, you can either call the train operator, or head to your local railway station’s ticket office. For no extra cost, you can take your bike on any of the New Forest Tour buses (space for four bikes per bus), allowing access to many of the National Park’s great cycle paths and quiet lanes. On other bus services, generally only folding bikes can be carried, and decisions are at the discretion of the driver.
There is a network of over one hundred miles of dedicated traffic-free gravel tracks in the New Forest, and you can find a detailed map of New Forest cycle routes on the Forestry Commission visitor website.
Sustrans offers great information and route ideas for cyclists and sustainable travellers in the New Forest and beyond, and for more information you can have a look at Greentraveller’s Guide to Cycling in the New Forest.
If you’re looking for maps of the New Forest, you can purchase a range of maps, guides, leaflets, and more from the New Forest e-shop; and there is an interactive map of the New Forest on the official visitor site.
If you want more maps, information, guides and local advice, make your way to one of the New Forest’s friendly and informative visitor information centre in Lyndhurst, at the heart of the forest. This is complemented by several useful local information points across the National Park, plus annually updated visitor information panels (with maps) at nineteen different locations.