Things to do for free in Lymington and the New Forest

20 fantastic 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. We all need things to get the children out and about which aren't going to break the bank. Here are a few ideas of things to do, whatever the weather! 

Weekly What's On from Lymington.com1) Keep informed of What's On for FREE!

Every Friday we email our FREE Weekly What's On detailing detailing what's on in the New Forest and Lymington area, including many community events which are free of charge (or low charge).

Subscribe free of charge to receive the Weekly What's On from below. You can also follow us on Facebook (Lymington Hampshire), Twitter (@lymingtondotcom) and Instagram (@lymingtondotcom) 

In addition, our Events Calendar details what's on locally all year round - and there are new events added every day! During school holidays our guides draw together ideas for families and children - some of which are free community events. This summer take a look at our What's On over the Summer Holidays guide, which includes free events such as the Lymington Seafood Festival and low cost / charitable events such as the Countryside on Show at the Countryside Education Trust - all great family days out!

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 and off you go! Woodside Park, Lymington. 

Woodside gardens fairies

3) Find some fairies!

Whilst 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 play in the playground and around the huge rhododendron bushes!

Not free, but all in aid of a Social Enterprise, visit Furzey Gardens in Minstead and take a walk hunting for the Fairy Doors. Absolutely magical!

4) 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 for your MP3.

5) Go wild at the New Forest Reptile Centre!

It's Wild Wednesday at the New Forest Reptile Centre every Wednesday throughout the school summer holidays, with fun activities for the whole family. Quiz trail and ‘making’ activities for children. Come and see the ‘live’ bird on the nest and the reptiles and amphibians. Wear suitable outdoor clothing and footwear. Booking is not required for this event.

NB: The New Forest Reptile Centre is closed from October to March.

6) Walk and learn with a New Forest Ranger! 

Bring the family and join a Volunteer Ranger on short guided walk. Learn about the New Forest and what makes it so special. Take a look at our Events Calendar for the latest New Forest trails and events happening over the holidays.

Table tennis tables 800

7) Get fit for free!

Every Saturday, join the Park Run - there's one in Lymington and one in Brockenhurst. Park Run Lyminton meets at Woodside Park at the Sports Pavillion at 9am, whilst Park Run Brockenhurst takes place at Wilverley in the winter months and Brockenhurst College in the summer months - you will need to register (free of charge) online beforehand and bring your barcode with you.

Also at Woodside are the 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.

Chess table in Lymington Bath Road

8) Enjoy a challenge beside the river!

Bring 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! 

9) Explore the New Forest on bicycles!

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.

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. In addition, most Tuesdays and Thursdays during school holidays there are New Forest Discovery Days with art and craft activities for families. Find out more here.

11) Find lots on at your local New Forest Library!

Every summer the 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. Check our Events Calendar for all the latest sessions!

12) Learn more about Lymington!

Three walks around town are detailed in a handy guide, also 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.

Lymington Town Tours provide walks with an interesting insight around the local area on Wednesdays and Sundays. For full details of forthcoming tours, look in our Events Calendar.

Lymington Keyhaven nature reserve13) 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.

14) Go deer spotting at Bolderwood Deer Sanctuary!

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.

Every school holiday sees free or low cost trails and activities for children at Bolderwood, opposite the Deer Sanctuary. See our event calendar for more information.

Milford on Sea beach - image by Steve Elson15) 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 carparks: Hurst Road East is next to the Needles Eye Cafe and a children's play ground. 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 carpark, with cliff-top path and steps down to the beach and then on to Hordle Cliff carpark, 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 is possible, although no lifeguard so do be vigilent as currents can be strong. (Image: Steve Elson Photography).

16) 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...

17) 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.

new forest carparks18) 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...

19) 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...

20) Get sailing!

Local children aged 8 years and over can learn seamanship and sailing at Wednesday Junior Sailing from April - September. All you need to do is register with the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, then come along to the sessions which cost just £1 (and include a doughnut and hot chocolate!) This wonderful community initiative is now 35 years old and is run by volunteer members of the RLymYC. 

In addition, keep an eye out at the other local sailing clubs who frequently run 'push the boat out' events where you can have a go at sailing.


Updated 5 August 2019


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During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis we are advising that most if not all events are either cancelled or postponed; for more detail please check with the organiser of the individual event.