The New Forest is the centre of recreation in Hampshire and the South East. Amongst the forests and heathland there is a network of footpaths and cycle routes that lend themselves to leisurely exploration of the National Park. The New Forest Tour bus offers you a way of getting round without having to take your car. It's a hop-on hop-off service and you can book space for your bike too. Horse riding is very popular and you'll find numerous riding stables within the National Park. The Beaulieu River is perfect for watersports and you can hire kayaks and Canadian canoes on the Beaulieu estate or book a course.
Autumn is one of the best times to visit the New Forest when the leaves transform into carpets of fiery reds and golden hues. The New Forest hosts a walking festival at the end of October into the beginning of November annually, with a wide choice of guided walks on offer made accessible by a great public transport network. Browse the National Park's website for more details - if its your first visit, the Walking Festival makes a fantastic introduction to England's great forest and heathland National Park. Walkers are free to roam across the National Park, or hook into one of the choice of long-distance walking trails including The Solent Way, The Avon Valley Path and the Castleman Trail.
There are over 100 miles of cycle tracks in the New Forest including approved on-road routes, cycle paths adjacent to roads and off-road cycle routes. The only places not accessible to bikes are the open forest and some footpaths and tracks not dedicated to cycle use. If you want to hire bikes while you're visiting there are cycle hire shops at Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Burley, Minstead and Lymington. A great way of linking up routes is to pick up the New Forest Bus. It runs hourly tours between May and September and links some of the New Forest towns including Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Lymington and Beaulieu. You can take your bike aboard - great for linking up with circular cycling routes.
The Solent Way starts at Milford-on-Sea and the path takes you along the entire Hampshire coast from Milford-on-Sea to Emsworth Harbour in the far east of Hampshire. It runs for 60 miles along the Solent coast taking in some of the country's most important naval history sites as well as pretty, historic harbours like that at Lymington. The route is waymarked with a seabird on a green background.
The Avon Valley Path actually starts at Salisbury in Wiltshire and runs for 34 miles south through Hampshire and then on to Christchurch in Dorset. The path passes through the New Forest along its western border. The route is sub-divided into five sections which taken individually make a good day out walking. The Avon is a chalk river with abundant wildlife along its banks including water and hay meadows, ditches and streams which are excellent for birdwatching.
Pick up the New Forest Open Top Bus Tour at Lyndhurst. It departs from the main car park throughout the day - also handy for the Visitor Information Centre. From here the tour takes you around the New Forest National Park stopping off at towns and villages like Brockenhurst, Lymington, Beaulieu and attractions such as Exbury Gardens. Take your bike along with you to access some of the 100 miles of cycle trails or use the daily Hop on Hop off ticket to link up with some circular walks.
If you fancy trying your hand at canoeing or kayaking then the Beaulieu River is where to head. You can book onto training sessions or trips in kayaks or Canadian canoes either as a group or as individuals. Trips are not only based on rivers in the New Forest but also further afield around the Hampshire coast for a spot of sea kayaking.