The south western side of the New Forest National Park and the Dorset/Hampshire border areas are marginally busier than the eastern side, but very lovely. The National Park areas are a combination of heath, oak and beech forests. Wild ponies live throughout the area. South and west of the park boundaries is a beautiful coastline. You’ll find Avon Beach, Highcliffe, Mudeford and Christchurch are all beautiful and whilst they can get busier in peak summer, are rarely so otherwise.
You’ll need a car to get the best out of this area.
Trains go to Sway, New Milton, Hinton Admiral, Christchurch and onto Bournemouth and Weymouth. The Bend and Coach and Magnolia Cottages are approx. 2-3miles from Hinton Admiral train station.
Use these links to learn more about the area here:
Don’t miss Moors Valley Country Park. You only pay for parking and the site is huge, has two massive play structures, one for younger children in a giant sandpit. In the larger forest park area, it has 8 or so well built, creative play structures all themed on the local wildlife. You can cycle here safely, all off road. There is a very good café and visitors centre too. The site is also accessible for wheeled mobility transport. It’s a day trip destination for families and very well priced.
At Christchurch Quay there is a lovely, kids outdoor water park. It’s a ‘splash pad’ so there is no swimming areas, but there are paddling pools, fountains, streams, places to dam up, float toys and enjoy creative water play all around.
You can take fishing trips from Mudeford quay. It’s worth looking up events here too, in summer there are raft races which are a riot.
Hengitsbury Head is a great spot. Park on the ‘mainland’ side of Mudeford and walk the 20-30 mins walk up and over to Mudeford Spit end. You can drop down to the beaches through the foresty sides of the ‘Head. THe views from here are lovely. For those with prams, take the pushchair friendly track along the flat route. There is a lovely ‘Noddy’ (land) train that goes from out from the car park to the cafe and back. It’s very sweet, eccentric and charming for small children.
The New Forest Aqua Park is 20 mins away. It’s approx’ £15 an hour.
We love Burley village area for the best New Forest forest walks.
Feel the sand under your feet….. the Nearest Beaches
The long and sandy beaches at Highcliffe Castle Beach and Mudeford Beach are both charming. There are good cafe’s along the coast here. Read our Insiders Guide to the New Forest beaches for more.
Hengitsbury Head is very close too. It is a site of significant archeological importance. It has a great cafe and visitors centre too.
The spit is most fun to arrive by the ‘noddy’ train, or take the little boat.
Even nearer, on the ‘main land’ Avon beach is white sand and lifeguards in summer. It also has a fab’ cafe and further up you’ll find the Noisy Lobster – a well loved and brilliant cafe with some reputation.
As you leave Highcliffe, there is a left turn into Rothesay Drive, short road just at the end, park behind the castle. walk down to beach from there. Castle cafe and nice areas to sit out. Or can park across the road.
Beach foodie options are easy: The Noisy Lobster which has good reviews – check online. it’s on the beach, has great food, there are lifeguards nearby. Watch for thesafe swimming flags and you’ll get perfect golden sand for sandcastles. There is a shop and dogs are welcome here too (check dates and times here). It can get busy in summer, so book ahead. You can also hire beach huts for the day here which is great fun.
Nearby there is also George’s café which has good reviews.
For good pubs we recommend The Three Tuns and The Crown, both come with good reputations and are well supported by the locals.
For absolute top quality restaurant meals we like Chewton Glen. The hotel has won many awards but only suits those who like pristine, produced and immaculate. It’s not a relaxing place to take children and it’s expensive so not for everyone.
Soho Pizza in Christchurch often has live music and is well loved by our staff here at NFE.
The Jetty restaurant in Christchurch harbor has a celebrity chef and a good following.
The Rising Sun in Purewell is a Thai restaurant and has a lovely outdoor area for summer meals.
The Boat House, v near Christchurch Priory is lovely. Spill out of there and head to Soho Pizza for cocktails and dancing.