The South East of England, including the New Forest, generally has a mild climate. However, whenever holidaying anywhere in the UK, it is always worth having a few wet weather options up your sleeve! Whether it is just a bit of drizzle, or a complete wash out, there’s no need to let the weather get you down. You can either opt to stay dry in one the many indoor attractions, museums, galleries or spas, or put on your raincoat and wellies and go out to explore the pretty villages and beautiful countryside on your doorstep. Here are our top seven suggestions of things to do when the weather isn’t on your side whilst on holiday in the New Forest.
Rain or shine, the New Forest Heritage 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 things to do 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 snakes, lizards 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 from the beginning of April until the beginning of September, seven days a week. 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, you will find plenty of tearooms where you can enjoy a freshly brewed cuppa and slice of homemade cake.
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. The museum is a great place to visit all year round, but especially so during school holidays when they schedule extra displays and workshops.
If motorsports isn’t your thing, visit the beautiful Beaulieu Abbey and Palace House. The property has been owned by the Montagu family since 1538 and you will find centuries of history on display. If the rain eases you can enjoy the lovely 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 village and maritime museum is a must for those with an interest in naval history.
Part of the New Forest’s 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. Make sure you don’t miss the Burley Fudge Shop! In Hinton, the Marshfield Bakery will satisfy any cake cravings. 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 bustling local market.
If you can’t think of anything nicer than spending a rainy day cocooned from the elements being pampered, you’re in luck! There are a number of New Forest hotels, including Herb House in Lime Wood, Carey’s Manor in Brockenhurst, New Park Manor between Lyndhurst and Brockenhurt, 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, museums and a go karting track. If you fancy yourself as a bit of a detective and you want to try something a bit different you should visit Exciting Escapes. Playing in a team you have just one hour to find clues, solve puzzles and complete challenges in this real-life version of an online Escape Room game.
The medieval city of Winchester is another top choice for a rainy day excursion. Once a seat of British power, the city boasts an 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. This pretty town has plenty to do, even when it’s raining. Be wowed by the stars as you shoot through space at the Island Planetarium. If the weather clears up you can go for a walk on one of the woodland or coastal trails. Or from Southampton you can take the ferry to 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.
Pubs and breweries
If you can’t imagine a day more perfect than one that starts with a lazy lie in and the papers followed by a long lunch in a cosy pub, you won’t mind a little wet weather. The White Buck in Burley is the perfect place to while away a few relaxing hours. More of a country house than an inn, the dog-friendly White Buck offers a tantalising menu showcasing the finest of local produce. Perfectly combining country charm with a sprinkling of sophistication, the relaxed atmosphere and warm welcome of a roaring log make this the perfect choice for a rainy day. Also worth a visit are The Montagu Arms in Beaulieu, The White Hart in Cadnam, and The Cartwheel Inn in Fordingbridge.
If you would like to learn a bit more about how your beer is brewed, head to Ringwood Brewery. This historic town has been brewing its’ own beer for centuries. Any cider lovers should head to the village of Burley to visit the New Forest Cider where you can sample real cider straight from the barrels, including their popular champagne cider!
Whatever the weather, the New Forest is a fantastic holiday destination. Whether you are looking for a large house for a family gathering, a last minute escape for two or a dog friendly cottage in the forest for a walking holiday, we have plenty of accommodation in the New Forest to suit everyone’s needs. We also have lots of recommendations for things to do if the sun comes out, and a few more rainy day options on our New Forest Guide.