A guide to beaches near Lymington and the New Forest

A guide to beaches near Lymington and the New Forest

Excellent water quality ratings for New Forest and Milford beaches

Ed Note June 2022: We reviewed our article from some time ago... and concluded that not a lot had changed. Erosion and other factors have played a part and sadly some of the Milford on Sea beach huts have been lost to the sea but essentially, these brilliant beaches are yet another of the wonderful components of the New Forest in which we're so lucky to live!

Did you know that the New Forest has over 40 miles of coastline?

The New Forest coast stretches from Totton near Southampton all the way to Barton on Sea, with the beaches of Highcliffe and Christchurch Bay also within easy reach. The foreshore provides a wealth of environments for wildlife, with salt marshes, mudflats and numerous inaccessible areas providing an enticing playground for egrets, herons, birds of prey and wildfowl, as well as New Forest ponies and cattle. 

Walks along the beaches and sea wall (officially signposted as the Solent Way) are popular all year-round - especially the Lymington to Keyhaven Nature Reserve that winds its way from the Lymington marinas and Sea Water Baths to Hurst Castle.

Sea swimming is popular with the hardiest locals all year round and in the summer the beach-hut-lined beaches make a popular family day out. Who needs the Mediterranean when you can bask in the sunshine at Milford and Highcliffe's tempting beaches! The water is far cleaner too - the water quality at all of the New Forest's beaches has been rated Excellent by the Environment Agency.

Here is our quick guide to the best beaches in Lymington, the New Forest and beyond...

calshot beach hampshireCalshot Beach

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: welcome October-April
Car park: pay and display (Sat nav: SO45 1BS)

Calshot beach is part of a shingle spit on the Hampshire coast which extends westward by one mile into the southern end of Southampton Water. The beach is mostly shingle with some sand and is backed by colourful beach huts that offer views over the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Short wooden groynes at the top of the beach slope down to a shingle and sand shelf which, at low tides, extends out some distance and affords plenty of shallow water at mid tides.

While you’re there, you’re sure to get in some boat watching as beautiful ships make their way in and out of Southampton. The Bluebird Café provides light refreshments and snacks, there are on-site toilets and a car park can be found adjacent to the beach.

At the end of the spit, you’ll find Calshot Castle, built by King Henry VIII to defend our South Coast. The beach is popular with water sports enthusiasts, partially due to the fact that it houses Calshot Activities Centre, which offers all sorts of sports both on the water and off. The beach is also great for fishing.

Lepe beachLepe Beach

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: welcome in the Country Park but not permitted on the family-friendly beach, which is located in front of the beach car park, between April and September. Follow signs on-site for alternative routes.
Car park: pay and display (Sat nav: SO45 1AD)

Lepe beach covers one mile of coastline and offers a mixture of sand and shingle, sloping down to a sandy area that extends out for some distance at low tide. The beach is backed by grassland and pine-fringed cliffs which, along with the beach itself, are part of Lepe Country Park.

There’s something for everyone at this beach, whether it be kite or windsurfing, a children’s play area, wildflower meadows, or even the D-Day artefacts that offer an insight into the beach’s historic importance. At low tide along the eastern end of the beach, remains of wartime defences can be spotted.

A long-stay carpark, shop and the Lookout café are situated on-site, and there are all-terrain wheelchairs available for hire.

Playing on the beach by Tanya Baddeley

Milford on Sea beaches

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: welcome all year
Car park: Hurst Road (sat nav: SO41 0PY), Paddy's Gap (sat nav: SO41 0NS) and Hordle Cliff (sat nav: SO41 0UX) Pay and display or local amenity parking clock applies.

A mostly-shingle beach with much to offer, Milford on Sea is excellent for swimming, water sports, walking, fishing and bird watching. A concrete sea wall and frequent timber groynes can be found along the beach and a little sand is exposed at the water’s edge in some places. The beach is lined with colourful beach huts and backed by a coastal cliff path. Milford on Sea beach offers views of the Solent, Isle of Wight, Purbeck Hills, Hengistbury Head and Christchurch Harbour.

Hurst Road car park is a short walk from Milford on Sea village, where you’ll find a variety of restaurants, shops, cafés and pubs. At the beach you'll find the Needles Eye Café and a children's playground. A short walk along Hurst Spit (to the East of Milford on Sea beach) will lead you to Hurst Castle.

A short drive along the coast road brings you to the Paddy's Gap and Hordle Cliff car parks. Hordle Cliff has an overflow car park (much needed on sunny summer days!), loos and a takeaway kiosk. At low tide Hordle Cliff beach reveals a sand bar where groups gather to splash in the surf. The beach is lined with brightly coloured wooden beach huts and is popular with swimmers, kite surfers, kayaks and paddleboarders. Beach BBQs are allowed.

Barton beachBarton on Sea Beach

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: welcome all year
Car park: 3 car parks along Marine Drive East / West (Sat nav: BH25 7DX, BH25 7DX, BH25 7EG) Pay and display or local amenity parking clock applies.

At the eastern end of Christchurch Bay, you’ll find this beautiful shingle beach which boasts stunning views of the Isle of Wight and Solent. Rock groynes and a steep slope flatten to shallow sandy flats that are exposed when the tide retreats and picturesque beach huts line the cliff base.

However, there’s more to this beach than the bathing; the magnificent Solent Way walk runs along the 30-metre-high clay cliffs that back the beach. Barton on Sea’s prehistoric past makes the beach famous for its fossil beds, perfect for a spot of fossil hunting.

There are three car parks nearby and road parking, as well as on-site toilets, a café, a restaurant, a shop and beach huts available to hire.

highcliffe beachHighcliffe Beach

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: October-April
Car park: Waterford Road (Sat nav: BH23 5DA) Pay and display or local amenity parking clock applies.

Just a five-minute drive from the New Forest border, the shingle and sand beach at Highcliffe has numerous groynes and a moderate slope, flattening to shallow sandy flats that are exposed when the tide retreats. Behind the beach are cliffs and a shoreline promenade, which provides access to the town and to the coast road at the top of the cliff.

Parking is available at the end of Waterford Road and refreshments at the Cliffhanger Café.

Highcliffe castle beachHighcliffe Castle Beach

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: October-April
Lifeguard: patrol mid-July - early September (check here)
Car park: pay and display (not NFDC parking clocks) - Sat nav: BH23 4LE

Highcliffe Castle has a sand and shingle beach, approximately one kilometre wide, backed by woodland covered cliffs. Follow the zig-zag path down the cliffs to the peaceful beach, perfect for sandcastles and relaxing. It is a good beach to visit in the summer months if you want to avoid dogs which are only permitted October-April.

Built between 1831 and 1836, Highcliffe Castle is an important surviving house of the Romantic and Picturesque style of architecture, which flourished at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Castle tours are usually available (prebook), where you can learn more about its fascinating history, look around the many rooms and surrounding grounds and gardens.

Refreshments are available at Highcliffe Castle café. 

steamer point beachSteamer Point

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: October-April
Car park: Penny Way pay and display (Sat nav: BH23 4UE)

This sandy beach is located below Steamer Point Nature Reserve, which boasts both aquatic and woodland habitats which attract a multitude of wildlife. The quiet beach can be accessed from a one-mile path from Friar’s Cliff beach to the west or Highcliffe Castle to the east, or alternatively, there’s a long-stay car park with on-site toilets. There are many tracks and trails through the woodland to enjoy, passing two wildlife-packed ponds.

Friars Cliff Beach

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: October- April
Lifeguard patrol: patrol mid-July - early September (check here)
Car park: Penny Way pay and display (Sat nav: BH23 4UE)

Friars Cliff Beach is a sandy and stony beach found to the east of its neighbour, Avon Beach. It also acts as the start of a one-mile path that leads you to Steamer Point Nature Reserve. The beach features views of the Isle of Wight and is lined by colourful beach huts, which can be hired.

Additionally, there’s parking available at Steamer Point car park, toilets and showers on-site, the Beach Café, restaurant and a shop.

avon beachAvon Beach

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: October- April
Lifeguard: patrol mid-July - early September (check here)
Car park: Noisy Lobster (Sat nav: BH23 4AN), Avon Run Road (BH23 4AN), Mudeford Quay (BH23 4AB)

Along the outskirts of Christchurch, you’ll find Avon Beach in Mudeford, a beautiful, sandy beach with views of the Solent and Isle of Wight. The beach offers something for everyone, a designated water sports area, beach huts for hire, an ice cream kiosk, a children’s play area, the Noisy Lobster restaurant, shop, a café and the perfect surface for sandcastle building!

Moreover, there are ample amenities including on-site showers and toilets, parking and disabled access. The beach is popular with kitesurfers and windsurfers.

Hengistbury beachHengistbury Head

Water quality: excellent
Dogs: welcome all year-round
Car park: Hengistbury Head (Sat nav: BH6 4EL)

Hengistbury Head has it all: woodland, saltmarsh, heathland and beach which altogether house over 300 different bird species and countless varieties of wildlife. The visitor centre, near the long stay car park, offers more information on the area’s archaeology, geology and ecology. There are on-site toilets, food and drink available and disabled access with smooth paths, a land train and a Land Rover service. All the way along the beach, gravel paths and headland, you can enjoy pleasant walks, as well as a land train which starts at the car park and travels to the spit and harbour entrance.

On the western side you'll find the beach, the start of Southbourne Beach. On the eastern side is the spit - the Mudeford Sandbank, lined with beach huts across Christchurch Harbour. The Beach House café makes a good pitstop. A land train travels between the main car park and Hengistbury spit.

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