Being in the South East of England means the New Forest is usually quite fortunate with its weather. However, this is Britain and rain is to be expected even when it isn’t forecast! Be it a drizzle or a deluge, there’s no need to let it bring you down because there are a wealth of fantastic wet weather activities in the New Forest, Hampshire and surrounding area that will keep you happily entertained.
Rain or shine, the New Forest Centre should be on your holiday itinerary. It is a fantastic museum crammed with information about the region. A changing schedule of events means you could view a local art exhibition, have fun on a family discovery day, or take part in a tour. Learning about the history of the forest, the geology of the area, and the conservation of plants and wildlife will add another dimension of interest to your outdoor activities.
The New Forest Reptile Centre has displays both indoors and out, making it perfect for those will-it-won’t-it showery days. On the well laid out Reptile Discovery Trail you can see native lizards, snakes, frogs, and toads. Nestcam runs in collaboration with the RSPB from April to August, giving a bird’s eye view of a Goshawk nest and chicks. The New Forest Reptile Centre is open until around the end of September. Call 0300 067 4601 to check before visiting.
Lyndhurst is home to a number of excellent cafes. If you want to warm up after a wet weather walk or need sustenance after browsing the local shops and boutiques, a freshly brewed cuppa and slice of homemade cake will do the job nicely.
Car enthusiasts will love the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. The new motorsport displays will ignite your passion for racing everything from go-carts to Formula 1. One of the highlights is hearing the engines roar into life during the daily start up by the workshop team. Beaulieu is a top New Forest attraction all year round, but especially so during school holidays when they schedule extra displays and workshops.
You should still visit Beaulieu even if you couldn’t care less how many horses are under the bonnet of your car because there is beautiful Beaulieu Abbey and Palace House to explore. The property has been owned by the Montagu family since 1538 and there is centuries of history on display. If the rain eases you can enjoy the gardens. If not, stay inside and tuck into a meal using produce from Beaulieu’s own gardens.
The nearby New Forest Activity Centre is fun whatever the weather. They don’t let a bit of rain dampen their fun whether it’s canoeing or kayaking, cycling or playing a muddy game of laser tag. We love their attitude: “…you’ll never meet a rusty person…” so chuck on your wet weather gear and get out there. If you definitely want to stay dry, Buckler’s Hard is a traditional maritime museum and village and a must for those with an interest in naval history.
Part of the New Forest’s considerable charm is that it doesn’t have a gigantic shopping centre but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some retail therapy to chase away any rainy-day blues. Lyndhurst has a wide variety of stores selling homewares, local produce and clothing. You don’t want to miss the Burley Fudge Shop and the Marshfield Bakery in Hinton will satisfy your cake craving. Brookley Road in Brockenhurst is good for browsing, and you can also visit nearby Setley Ridge Vineyard’s cellar door and farm shop while you’re in the area. Lymington’s Georgian High Street is utterly charming with a lovely mix of high street names and independent shops to browse, and if you visit on Saturday you’ll be there for the local market.
If you can’t think of anything nicer than spending a rainy day cocooned from the weather being pampered, you’re in luck! There are a number of New Forest hotels, including Carey’s Manor in Brockenhurst, Herb House in Lime Wood, New Park Manor on the way to Lyndhurst and Chewton Glen in New Milton, which offer the opportunity for serious relaxation.
The New Forest is only one beautiful part of Hampshire. Southampton is just over the Solent, offering more shops and restaurants, a cinema and museums. The medieval city of Winchester is another top choice for a rainy day excursion. Once a seat of British power, the city boasts and incredible cathedral, while The Great Hall of Winchester Castle holds what was once thought to be King Arthur’s actual round table.
From Lymington you can jump on a ferry to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight – another pretty town with lots to do even when it’s raining, or go from Southampton and spend the day in Cowes or Hythe.
Wet Weather Walks in the New Forest
If you agree with Ranulph Fiennes’ statement that “there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”, jump into your wet weather clothes and enjoy miles of waymarked walking and cycling trails. Even big kids like splashing their way through puddles, especially when there is the promise of warming up in a cosy café or pub at the end of it. As well as the famous ponies, the New Forest is home to five types of deer, which you are more likely to see when there are less people around. You can pick up trail maps and information from the New Forest Visitor Centre in Lyndhurst.
If you can’t imagine a day more perfect than one that starts with a lazy lie in and the papers followed by a home-cooked meal in a cosy pub, you won’t mind a little wet weather. The New Forest Inn in Emery Down is an 18th Century dog-friend pub near Lyndhurst which serves food all day, dishing up delicious meals made on the premises with local ingredients. Also worth a visit are the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu, The White Hart in Cadnam, and The Cartwheel Inn in Fordingbridge.
The New Forest is a brilliant place for your holiday, whatever the weather and time of year. Why not take a look at our accommodation in the New Forest and let us help you discover the areas many delights.