Free things to do in Lymington and New Forest

Things to do for free in Lymington and the New Forest

Free (and almost free) activities for everybody

Without a doubt, the increased cost of living is making school holidays more expensive than ever for many families. Fortunately, the Lymington and New Forest area has a wealth of things to do (whatever the weather!), many of which are free or almost free. Read on for a selection of our favourites - and do This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you discover more!

1) Keep informed of What's On locally for FREE

Every Friday we email our FREE Weekly What's On detailing what's on in the New Forest and Lymington area, including many community events which are free of charge (or low charge). Sign up for our Weekly What's On below. Follow us on Facebook (@LymingtonHampshire), Twitter (@lymingtondotcom) and Instagram (@lymingtondotcom) for more great ideas and local information. Keep an eye on our Events Calendar too where you'll find oodles of free or nearly free events listed for the holidays. 


new skate park Lymington

2) Try Lymington's skate park

It's free to use and by all accounts it's awesome! Grab your skateboard, scooter or stunt bike and off you go! Located by the Lymington Mariners rugby field at Woodside Park, the skate park was redesigned and rebuilt a few years ago and is popular for boarders and bikers alike!

Woodside gardens fairies

3) Picnic with fairies

At Woodside Park, younger children will love the Woodside Fairy Trail around the gardens. Follow the enchanting trail to find where 'The Fey of Woodside' dwell. Download your own map here. Afterwards, throw down a rug on the lawn and enjoy a picnic or play in and around the huge rhododendron bushes. For total fairy addicts, across the New Forest in Minstead visit Furzey Gardens, a worthy social enterprise, to take a walk hunting for the Fairy Doors. An absolutely magical outing! (Top Tip: Book tickets online in advance which is slightly cheaper)

Milford on Sea beach - image by Steve Elson

4) Head to the beach

Did you know that the New Forest has over 40 miles of coastline? Or that the water at all our local beaches has been rated Excellent by the Environment Agency? The nearest beach to Lymington is Milford-on-Sea, a shingle beach with good views of the Isle of Wight and the Needles. There are three car parks: Hurst Road East is next to the Needles Eye Cafe and a children's playground. There is an excellent walk along Hurst Spit to Hurst Castle. A little further along the B3058 (Cliff Road) and you will reach Paddy's Gap car park, with a cliff-top path and steps down to the beach and then on to Hordle Cliff car park, with an ice cream kiosk and public WC. Between Paddy's Gap and Hordle Cliff, the beach is lined with colourful private beach huts. Swimming and bodyboarding are possible, although there is no lifeguard service, so do be vigilant as currents can be strong. Find our guide to local beaches here.

Table tennis tables 800

5) Workout your body... and mind

 At Woodside Park, you'll find an Outdoor Gym and two Table Tennis Tables (bring your own paddles and balls), alongside the Tennis Courts (bring your own racquets and balls), free for all to use. There's also a running track in the field adjacent to the park. Alternatively, take your own chess pieces or draughts pieces to Bath Road park and play a game on the new chess table. Work out your mind in beautiful surroundings next to the Lymington River! 

Town Trail map

6) Learn more about Lymington

Learn tales about Lymington's history in our historic walks around town. Find details of the walks here. The walks and map are detailed in a handy guide, usually available at information points around town. The walks give an insight into Lymington so that both tourists and residents can appreciate the history and development of the town. Approximate duration of each walk: red route 1 hour, blue route 1.5 hours, green route 2 hours.

7) Borrow books and more from your local New Forest Library

Visit your local library to borrow books and DVDs. Plus every summer we recommend for primary-school-aged children the Summer Reading Challenge - it's a great way to get even the most reluctant readers reading! Check your local library for opening hours, and keep an eye on our Events Calendar for all the latest activity sessions.

Top tip! Local independent bookshop, The Imaginarium, also sells preloved books and from time to time will have 'giveaway' preloved books too - definitely worth a visit to Angel Courtyard for a browse. Plus check our Events Calendar for free events with authors.

8) Have a go at crabbing

Crabbing is a great activity to while away the hours! All you need is a crabbing line, some bait (raw bacon works well), a bucket, and perhaps a net, and off you go! Popular local crabbing locations include Lymington Town Quay, Keyhaven, and the bridge at Hurst Spit. (Top tip: head to Yachtmail opposite the Town Quay in Lymington for crabbing supplies!)

Lym Keyhaven Nature Reserve map9) Discover the Lymington to Keyhaven Nature Reserve!

Once an industrious area for harvesting salt, the nature reserve covers nearly 200 Ha (500 acres) between the mouth of the Lymington river and the village of Keyhaven and offers great walks along the Solent Way (often referred to as the sea wall). There are great views of the marshes and their wildlife from the Solent Way which runs the length of the reserve. There are also several attractive circular walks on local footpaths which cross the area. The reserve is open every day of the year for quiet informal recreation on designated paths and tracks. An information guide is available at the St Barbe Information Point. Find out more about the Lymington to Keyhaven Nature Reserve here. 

10) Low cost / free activities at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery

St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery has a range of craft events throughout the school holidays, many of which are included in the (low cost compared to many other places!) entry fee. Check out the craft events and activities in our Events Calendar.

FREE! Children who receive benefit-related free school meals, have special educational needs and disabilities or are considered vulnerable can benefit from Healthy Food and Holiday Activities (HAF) at St Barbe. Over the Easter holidays, the activities will run for four days 11-14 April from 11.30am - 3.30pm. Two days are specifically for families (5+ an adult is required to accompany them, younger siblings welcome) and two days for 11-16-year-olds (no adult required), each day there will be craft activities, a hot meal, snacks and lots of FUN!  Click here to find out more and to check eligibility.

11) Take part in a park run

Lymington Woodside parkrun takes place at Woodside Gardens in Lymington (starting by the Sports Pavillion) and in Brockenhurst the parkrun starts at Brockenhurst College. Both are part of the national parkrun and are free, community events where you can walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate. Parkrun is 5k and takes place every Saturday morning at 9am. Find the latest details in our Events Calendar.

new forest carparks

12) Take a stroll in the New Forest and spot New Forest animals

Whether it’s the Ancient and Ornamental woodlands, with their magnificent oaks and beeches; the scattered birch and pine across the Open forest with clear views of plantations, mires and valleys beyond; or the more uniform plantation woodlands, there will be a walk for you to enjoy.

There are free car parks all over the forest with walking opportunities galore - click on the picture above for a larger map. If you are looking for a set route to walk there are a number of way-marked walks - these walks are also suitable for those who are less able and for pushchairs and buggies as they are on gravel tracks. Map reading is not required, just follow the wooden posts with the coloured markers. And of course, along the way, there are plenty of beautiful places to enjoy a picnic...

The New Forest is home to ponies, donkeys, cattle and in the autumn, pigs too! Take a walk and be sure to admire animals from afar, don't be tempted to touch or feed them. Remember the New Forest code:

New Forest Code

13) Explore the New Forest by bike

From the wobbly beginner to the experienced off-roader, the New Forest has plenty of space for everyone who wants to ride. Cycling in the New Forest is ideal for families wanting safe off-road and gentle cycle routes. New Forest cycling is available all year round and is the perfect way to take in the different seasons from spring with the bluebells and baby animals, summer with the new foals, autumn with the beautiful golden leaves and winter with crisp frosty mornings ideal for cycling on our gravel tracks. Download a FREE map of cycle routes in the New Forest.

Top tip: Hire bicycles at Cyclexperience by the station in Brockenhurst.

Bucklers hard new forest

14) Visit Bucklers Hard

Buckler's Hard village is free to enter: the grounds of Buckler's Hard village, Shipwright's Cottage, St Mary's Chapel, the Captain's Table and Master Builder's House Hotel are free for everyone to visit. For those arriving by vehicle, a parking charge applies to help maintain the heritage site. To enhance your visit and learn more about the special heritage of Buckler's Hard, you have the option to pay a small admission charge to explore the Museum or enjoy the River Cruise. Museum tickets can now only be purchased from the Buckler's Hard Museum, whilst River Cruise tickets can only be purchased when boarding the boat.

Top Tip: over the Easter weekend (6-10 April 2023) children visit the Buckler's Hard Museum free - find out more here!

15) Learn more about the New Forest National Park

Visit the New Forest Heritage Centre in Lyndhurst, which offers free entry and always has an interesting exhibition. Open 7 days a week with events for children and families on some days - check our events calendar for details

16) Find the Oldest Oak Tree in the New Forest!

Visit Knightwood Oak, the largest oak in the New Forest, at 7.4m girth, and surely one of the oldest. It is still going strong today and is a spectacular example of the ancient art of 'pollarding', the traditional way of harvesting wood without killing the tree. A shady spot to bring a picnic, "get away from it all" and try to imagine what it would have been like over 400 years ago when this tree began to grow. Download a podcast.

17) Visit Rufus Stone

The Rufus Stone Car park is situated within an ancient wood pasture on the eastern edge of the Forest. A short stroll takes you to the famous memorial to King William II. Many stories abound but it is said that an arrow shot at a stag by one Walter Tyrrell glanced off a tree and killed the King. Download a podcast to learn more...

 51A2009 New Forest Reptile Centre Pods 2021

18) Walk on the wild side and discover reptiles!

The New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst, helps protect rare snakes and lizards and encourages the re-introduction of these animals across the country. There are special outdoor ‘pods’ at the centre which provide a natural home to the sand lizard, smooth snake and adder. These reptiles can be difficult to see in the wild as they are rare and very secretive, so the Reptile Centre is a great place to see them close up. Entry is free although a donation of £3 is welcomed. Closed during the winter months. Open from 10.30am – 3.30pm from 1st April 2023.

bolderwood new forest19) Go deer spotting 

Spotting deer in the New Forest isn't always easy, but at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary there is a purpose-built viewing platform overlooking a large meadow area where a herd of fallow deer regularly gather. Deer viewing at Bolderwood isn't guaranteed but the herd are fed daily by the local New Forest keeper, between the months of April and September, so the deer are more than happy to remain in the main meadow and are very accustomed to human presence. Feeding time can be between noon and 3pm. Several of the animals are white, which is quite an uncommon colour for fallow deer to be. The platform provides an excellent photo opportunity although a zoom or telephoto lens is a very good idea if you want close-up shots. Download the Guide to Deer at Bolderwood podcast.

Top Tip: During school holidays there are often free or low-cost trails and activities for children at Bolderwood car park, opposite the Deer Sanctuary. 


And finally, the Country Traveller's helpful and growing series of videos about the local area now includes Five Free Things to See and Do in the New Forest.

 Updated March 2023




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