The New Forest is a fabulous destination to visit with kids where you can explore the woodland, discover wildlife around every corner, get up close to New Forest ponies and fish for minnows in the streams.
Much as we love exploring the great outdoors, sometimes the kids want and need a little more structure to the day and there are some fabulous places to visit within the New Forest National Park.
10 Fun Attractions to visit with the kids in the New Forest
Have you ever wondered how to build an 18th warship?
At Buckler’s Hard Maritime Museum you can step back in time and discover the best-preserved example of an 18th century shipbuilding village in the world, where the ships built for Nelson’s fleet at Trafalgar.
Characters are brought to life in the educational museum with historic displays and exhibitions, living history, fun quizzes and hands on activities, like trying your hand at some old-fashioned games.
Some of the old houses are also open to the public, so you can see how people would have lived and worked in this historic village.
There is plenty to see outside too; learn about the trees used in shipbuilding in the Shipwright school workshop, where they still teach traditional boat building and rural building crafts.
For a small extra charge you can catch a boat down Beaulieu river and see the edges of Exbury Gardens, spot an old American landing craft on the shores and birdwatch at the neighbouring North Solent National Nature Reserve – we spotted a heron and its young on the mud flats.
TOP TIP: Stop at the cafe and order a Towey Tea. Named after the last ship built at Buckler’s Hard, it is the perfect treat after exploring everything the site has to offer.
Have you got a Top Gear / motoring fan in the family?
Beaulieu is a fantastic day out for all the family with something for everyone to enjoy as there is so much to see – the Palace House and Gardens, the historic site of Beaulieu Abbey along with a museum, and of course the National Motor Museum which houses a number of motoring themed exhibitions including the fantastic World of Top Gear.
There are over 250 vehicles in the world-famous National Motor Museum; from the legendary Chitty Chitty Bang N=Bang to F1 racers and land speed record breakers, to classic cars dating back to 1875.
Just one ticket gives you access to the gorgeous, landscaped gardens of Beaulieu Estate, the treasures of Palace House and the ruins of the local abbey.
If you don’t fancy walking, an open-topped replica of a 1912 London Bus will ferry you around the large estate, or you can view it from up high on the high-level monorail which even takes you through the heart of the museum.
My kids love Dipstick’s Driving Circuit, where they can drive their very own mini-cars and the brilliantly themed Mini Motor Play Area.
New Forest Wildlife Park
New Forest Wildlife Park is what can only be described as a hidden gem.
Set in the heart of the New Forest, it is just a mile up the road from Longdown Farm another of our favourite places to visit.
The park offers you the chance to see indigenous species in their natural surroundings by following the easy to follow woodland trails throughout the park.
You get to see Sika, Fallow and Roe deer roaming freely throughout the park, excitable and very noisy otters at feeding time, plus whole host of other fascinating animals including owls, wolves, bison, wild boar, wallabies, adders, polecats and butterflies fluttering in the butterfly house.
As you wander through the park you will also find two huge adventure playgrounds, ‘Go Wild’ and ‘Mini Go Wild’, that are packed fill of huge climbing frames, zip wires, climbing ropes, swings, spider nets and much more.
Longdown Farm is situated in Ashurst, New Forest.
The farm promises a daily schedule of activities which run throughout the day meaning you won’t miss out no matter what time you arrive.
From bumpy tractor rides, feeding the animals, cuddling chicks, guinea pigs and rabbits, larger animals to see plus lots of open space to run around, there is plenty to keep the kids entertained.
Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary
Bolderwood is situated just outside Lyndhurst, Hampshire and is home to a famous herd of Fallow deer which live in and around the site.
Between April and September, the herd is fed daily by a friendly local New Forest keeper so is well accustomed to the presence of observers and there is a large deer viewing platform where you are treated to a clear view of the herd.
With a variety of graded walks, ranging for all abilities amongst the tall trees, this is one of the most popular family spots in the New Forest.
New Forest Reptile Centre
Discover more about British reptiles and amphibians and how they are being conserved in the New Forest with specially created display enclosures that allow you to study these animals in close-up at the New Forest Reptile Centre.
They have the only collection of all the native lizards, snakes, frogs and toads, including Britain’s only venomous snake, the adder and rarest lizard, the sand lizard to see.
Marwell Zoo is one of our favourite days out with the kids.
Not only is it full of wonderful animals to see, but the kids love racing around its wide pathways, and testing their climbing skills in their numerous play areas.
It has seen a lot of investment in recent years and has some fabulous new exhibits including a new Tropical House, powered by zoo poo, the Lemur Loop and the Wild Explorers exhibit where you can see Rhino wandering with Zebra, Scimitar horned-oryx and Ostrich.
You can even become a zookeeper for a day, where you spend time with their trained staff in preparing food and enrichment for our animals, mucking out their enclosures and then meeting and feeding some of them behind the scenes.
If you kids are after something more thrilling to do, then Paultons Park is the place for you.
Home to Peppa Pig World, the Lost Kingdom, animals and birds and 70 rides and attractions, it is the perfect destination kids from tots to teens.
Peppa Pig World is the ideal destination for under 6’s and they have just opened two new rides, whereas the Lost Kingdom is aimed at 6 and overs, with animatronic dinosaurs around every corner and two child friendly rollercoasters to try.
There are a couple of other exciting rides for older teens, such as The Edge, Cobra and Detonator drop ride, but I would recommend the park for those age 0-12.
TOP TIP: Take swimwear and towels if you are visiting on a hot day. Paultons Park has two splash parks; Peppa Pigs Muddy Puddles and a larger one for older kids.
Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway
Get back to nature at Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway, with beautiful gardens and the world-famous for the Rothschild Collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, rare trees and shrubs.
Railway enthusiasts can enjoy the superb 12 ¼” gauge railway which runs along a 1 ½ mile track through the gorgeous gardens, where younger visitors can spot animals such a deer, squirrel, rabbits and owls.
There is also an Adventure Play Area featuring an the Sky Walk Trail, Explorer Tower and Bird’s Nest Swing for older kids, whilst their younger siblings will enjoy the Play Hut, Bucket Swing and climbing apparatus.
New Forest Water Park
New Forest Water Park offers a range of activities suitable for families with older children including kayaking, paddle boarding, cable wakeboarding and the inflatable water park.
Measuring in at an impressive 4,000sq meters, the floating, inflatable Aqua Park has 2 trampolines, monkey bars, flippers, slides, hurdles, springboard, rockers, rollers, an overhang climbing wall, a swing, a giant iceberg(!) and much more.
Entrants must be able to swim and be aged 6+ and 110cm in height.
I hope this has given you some fun ideas to do with the kids in Hampshire. The New Forest and surrounding area is filled with great things to keep them entertained if you want to travel slightly farther afield.
Have you visited any of these attractions?