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Discovering the Coastline of New Forest

Sunset at the Millennium Lighthouse at Lepe on the shores of the Solent and in the New Forest National Park, UK Photo Credit Julian Gazzard

The New Forest is so famous for its free-roaming ponies and Forest, most are unaware of its coastline. Salt marshes, sand, seabirds. The New Forest is so famous for its free-roaming ponies and Forest, most are unaware of its coastline. Salt marshes, sand, seabirds: it is not what we normally associate with New Forest.

However New Forest has over 40 miles of coastline stretching south from Barton on Sea right Southhampton Water to Totton, a town far from the city of Southhampton. The coastline has a colour and rich history of military, industry and crime!  The New Forest coast were well suited to the smuggling activities of old with local creeks and marshes providing secluded landing places for smugglers.

Inland it’s the New Forest ponies, deer and woodland wildlife which captivate nature lovers. Along the coastline, with its soft cliffs, spits and barrier beaches, salt marshes and mudflats, it’s the birds that attract attention – although New Forest ponies do make their way to the coast too!

Across the coastline you can be amazed by oystercatchers, brent geese terns, and marsh harriers among others. You can also chase butterflies like the Painted Lady. Their nature reserves of Keyhaven and Normandy marshes, are close by to the beaches of Milford and Mudeford.

As with the land of New Forest, the sea has something for everyone to discover.

Our Top Picks for New Forest Beaches

Here are our recommendations of the best New Forest beaches. When you feel like leaving the trees and heaths behind and exchanging them for cliffs and sea views of the New Forest Coastline.

You can enjoy delightful walks (or for those more adventurous some amazing hikes), build sandcastles and enjoy the cafes and restaurants that are nestled in the townships.  Sometimes you’ll receive a slight exfoliation of sea salt on your face from the blustery, brisk sea breeze and other days you can work on your tan!

Barton on Sea

 Visit this safe, shingle beach for views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Barton on Sea is one of the best spots for fossil hunting, being famous for over 600 species of shells. If the weather turns windy, the clifftop above the beach is perfect for kite flying and paragliding.  A cliff-top café and restaurant, the Cliff House provides panoramic view of the Solent, along with delectable food and drink.  You can also sleep there!

Address: Beach Avenue, Barton on Sea, New Milton, BH25 7EH

Calshot Beach

Sitting at the entrance to Southampton Water, this beach is well known as a haven for water sports. Sailing, windsurfing and kayaking can all be enjoyed here, with equipment for hire and qualified instruction available from Calshot Activity Centre.

Address: Calshot Beach, Calshot Close, Calshot, Southampton, SO45 1BP.

Calshot Beach

Lepe Beach

Set within the Lepe Country Park, a short distance from Calshot, Lepe enjoys some of the most stunning sunsets in the area. Make use of the restaurant and tea rooms, open daily throughout the summer months and the facilities available in the country park.

Address: Lepe Country Park, Exbury, Southampton, SO45 1AD.

Lepe Beach

Mudeford Sandbank

Mudeford is a delightfully family-friendly spot. Even the journey to the beach can entertain restless children as you choose between a short ferry ride from Mudeford Quay or a ride on the Hengistbury Head Land Train from Hengistbury Head car park. The warm yellow sand here makes it one of the best beaches for lazing in the sun while the kids paddle in the surf.

Address: Mudeford Sandbank Beach, Southbourne, Bournemouth BH6 4EW

Mudeford Sandbank


Although not strictly in the New Forest, we couldn’t go past mentioning the Bournemouth, the quintessential seaside town, which is a short drive west from New Forest. Once a sleepy retirement community, Bournemouth is now a vibrant and bustling town with delightful beaches and a wide selection of cafes and restaurants. Try Alum Chine beach with its adventure playground and tropical gardens or take a stroll along one of the piers at Boscombe or Bournemouth central beach.

Address: Pier Approach, Bournemouth BH2 5AA, United Kingdom