A National Park and ancient woodland, The New Forest is a beautiful landscape with tucked-away villages and a delightful coastline...
But visiting the area is more than discovering nature at its finest — it is discovering a way of life. Being a diverse, working forest, the outdoors is at the heart of local culture and history. So, it’s no surprise that four-legged visitors are welcomed just as much as their owners.
Dog-friendly days out and attractions in the New Forest...
- Lepe Country Park, Exbury, Southampton — with a fascinating blend of delightful countryside and scenic coastline, the park is a great day out all year round. There is a nature reserve, wild flower meadows, and the historic beach still has remains from D-Day when troops bound for Normandy sailed from Lepe. Dogs can enjoy playing fetch in the fields, or even have a splash in the Solent. Part of the beach — the family beach — is not open to dogs from April to September each year. For more information visit www.hants.gov.uk/lepe
- Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway — home to a splendid collection of some of the rarest and most colourful plants nature has to offer, the 200-acre site is one of the finest woodland gardens in the country. The gardens are open seasonally from March to November. Dogs on leads are welcome, and there are more than 22 miles of footpaths to wander. Visitors can get a leaflet showing the location of dog bins and poo bags at the entrance. Although dogs are not allowed in the restaurant there are plenty of water bowls available. Your four-legged companion can also join you on the steam railway, which takes you on a 20-minute journey through the scenic gardens. For more information visit www.exbury.co.uk
- Braxton Gardens, Milford-on-Sea, Southampton — enjoy the tranquil setting and a range of gardens, including the rose garden and a walled garden which is home to three mature fruit trees. Dogs on leads are welcome to explore the gardens and join you in Muffi ns Galore! tea room, which provides home-made lunches — your dog will get a treat too! For more information call 01590 643633 or visit www.atbraxtongardens.com or www.muffinsgalore.co.uk
- New Forest Centre, Lyndhurst, Hampshire — from stories of smuggling and snake catching, to the conservation work that happens each year, visitors can delve into the history of the area by visiting the New Forest Museum. Located at the centre, along with an art gallery, gift shop, visitor centre, and reference library, the museum is open seven days a week and costs £4 for a standard ticket. Dogs on leads are welcome in all areas of the centre, except the reference library. For more information call 023 8028 3444 or visit www.newforestcentre.org.uk
- The New Forest Reptile Centre, near Lyndhurst, Hampshire — home to a collection of native lizards, frogs, snakes, and toads, as well as Britain’s only venomous snake — the adder. The centre also has an exhibition called ‘A Date with Nature in The New Forest’ where visitors can see birds of prey close up from footage taken from nest cams. Dogs on leads are allowed, and there is a waymarked circular trail from the centre — ideal for a dog walk. The centre is open seasonally from spring until September. For more information visit www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/EnglandHampshireNoForestNewForestNewForestReptileCentre
Dog-friendly places to eat in the New Forest
The New Forest Inn, Emery Down, near Lyndhurst, Hampshire — situated in a quaint village, the pub makes an ideal stop-off after a day exploring with your dog. Owners can enjoy home-made food using locally sourced ingredients from the menu or daily specials board. Dogs are welcome anywhere in the pub, restaurant, and garden — water bowls are available and treats are at the bar. The pub also has two pet-friendly rooms for people looking for a longer stay. For more information call 023 8028 4690 or visit www.thenewforestinn.co.uk.
The Compass Inn, Winsor, Hampshire — it claims to be ‘the most dog-friendly pub in the New Forest’ and it is easy to see why. A country pub that serves traditional food, dogs are welcome in the bars, restaurant, and gardens. The pub also runs monthly dog walks. Join Boris the resident Jack Russell Terrier and other dog walkers for a walk in the forest, followed by a roast lunch and a pudding. It costs £17.50 and dogs eat for free. For more information call 023 8081 2237 or visit www.compassinn.co.uk.
The New Forest and Hampshire County Show is a three-day event held annually at The Showground, New Park, Brockenhurst, in the heart of the New Forest. With cookery demonstrations, forest crafts, livestock shows, show jumping, flower shows, and lots of shopping opportunities, the event is a great family day out. Dogs on leads are welcomed — there are lots of water bowls for canine visitors — but are restricted from visiting some marquees. For more information visit www.newforestshow.co.uk
Hit the beach
As well as beautiful woodland, the New Forest has a coastline, so there are lots of stunning beaches to discover. Many are dog friendly but it is worth checking any restrictions before you visit. Milford-on-Sea is in the New Forest area and is dog friendly. The shingle beach has great views of the Isle of Wight and the Needles, and walks along the shingle spit towards Hurst Castle. Owners can also stop for a snack with their pet at The Needles Eye Cafe, which is just minutes from the beach. For more information call 01590 642458.
Four-legged companions are welcomed with open arms to the New Forest but make sure your trip is enjoyable for everyone by following our top tips:
- Don’t miss the opportunity to let your dog off lead, but make sure you’re in control of your dog at all times.
- Ensure he doesn’t chase any livestock — this may mean keeping him on a lead.
- Remember your poo bags and use the dog bins provided.
- Keep away from any work that is happening in the forest.
- Take a supply of fresh water so your dog can enjoy a drink.
- After your walk check your dog for ticks, as they are more common in woodland.
Explore the forest
The New Forest covers 145 square miles but heading deep into the forest with your four-legged friend is easy. The Forestry Commission — which protects the ancient woodland — has created a series of waymarked trails. Three miles or less, the trails are suitable for the less physically able and buggies as they are gravelled tracks. The team recommended the Wilverley Wander as being popular with dog walkers.
The two-mile route through the Wilverley Inclosure traverses a diverse and working woodland which has a delightful mixture of conifers and broadleaves, and also open spaces. Owners can easily join the route from one of two car parks; simply follow the green waymarkers from the Wilverley Plain car park, or the yellow markers from the Wilverley Inclosure car park. There are also toilets located between the two car parks.
Take your four-legged companion out on two wheels! If you enjoy bike riding, many cycle hire companies offer dog trailers. You can tow your dog along when he is feeling tired and let him stretch his legs when he fancies it — a great way for you both to explore the forest. It costs around £8 to hire a dog trailer but you may have to hire a bike too. For more information visit www.newforestcyclehire.co.uk or www.forestleisurecycling.co.uk
How to get there
The Wilverley Inclosure is situated off a road which joins Burley Road and the A35, to the west of Brockenhurst. The OS grid reference of SU 254 010 will lead to both car parks, and you can get a route plan from any address using the ‘get directions’ function on the Forestry Commission website; visit www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/EnglandHampshireNoForestNewForestWilverleyPlain