Things to do for free in Lymington and the New Forest
Free (or almost free) activities for children and families in the New Forest
School holidays can be expensive! Even a staycation can start to cost the earth if we're not careful. And this summer, with many of the usual clubs, activities and days out simply not possible because of covid, and many of us already feeling the pinch of reduced income, it is especially useful to have some fresh ideas of things to do that won't break the bank. Fortunately, the Lymington and New Forest area has a wealth of things to do, whatever the weather!
1) Keep informed of What's On 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. You might also like to follow us on Facebook (Lymington Hampshire), Twitter (@lymingtondotcom) and Instagram (@lymingtondotcom) where we also detail things to do and local information. Plus, our Events Calendar details what's on locally all year round!
2) Try Lymington's skate park
It's free to use and by all accounts it's awesome! Grab your skateboard and off you go! Located by the Lymington Mariners rugby field at Woodside Park, Lymington, the skate park was redesigned and rebuilt a few years ago and is popular for boarders and bikers alike!
3) Borrow books and more from your local New Forest Library
In a normal year, our local libraries inspire children with a Summer Reading Challenge. Find also lots of free sessions for babies, toddlers and primary school children - including the excellent Chatterbooks, Construction Clubs, Rhyme Time and Story Time. In 2020, libraries reopened in early July, check your local library for opening hours, and keep an eye on our Events Calendar for all the latest sessions as they start up again.
4) 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! (Book tickets online in advance)
5) Head to the Beach
The nearest beach to Lymington is at 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 cliff-top path and steps down to the beach and then on to Hordle Cliff car park, with ice cream kiosk and public WC. Between Paddy's Gap and Hordle Cliff, the beach is lined with colorful private beach huts. Swimming and bodyboarding are possible, although there is no lifeguard service, so do be vigilant as currents can be strong.
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) 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. Hire bicycles at Cyclexperience by the station in Brockenhurst.
8) 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.
9) 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.
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!
10) 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. The shop, museum and café will be reopening on Monday 27th July, from 10.30am to 4.30pm daily. In addition, most Tuesdays and Thursdays during school holidays there are New Forest Discovery Days with art and craft activities for families (find more details in our Events Calendar)
11) 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.
13) Visit Rufus Stone
The Rufus Stone Car park is situated within 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. You can download a podcast to learn more...
14) 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.
During school holidays there are often free or low-cost trails and activities for children at Bolderwood, opposite the Deer Sanctuary.
15) Become detectives for the day
Have you discovered Treasure Trails? A Treasure Trail is an imaginative way to explore towns, cities & villages across the UK with a self-guided themed walk. An easy to follow route will enable you to crack the clues whilst taking in some of the most fascinating sights along the way. By solving the fiendish clues on the Trail, you’ll be discovering whodunit, finding the location of the buried treasure, or completing the mission like a true secret agent. Trails can be downloaded or posted to you. They are also available in some local shops (e.g. Lymington Post Office). Priced at £6.99 (plus any P&P), you only need one Trail booklet per family/group. There are currently Treasure Trails for Lymington, Sway, Brockenhurst, Burley, Beaulieu, and Lyndhurst.
16) 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...
17) Take a stroll in the New Forest
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 carparks all over the forest with walking opportunities galore. 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 on.
And of course, along the way, there are plenty of beautiful places to enjoy a picnic...
Updated July 2020