The New Forest, Hampshire is a wonderful destination for a family camping holiday. The beauty of the New Forest National Park with its variety of habitats, wild ponies and grazing cattle, streams to paddle in and miles of off-road cycling draws many families to the area, especially in the summer months.
Located in the south of England, between Southampton and Bournemouth, the New Forest is easily accessible, making it a great family UK staycation destination. As well as enjoying the natural beauty of the place there are lot of fun, family-friendly attractions in the area including the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and, for little ones, Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park.
It is possible to camp within the New Forest National Park (though not in 2020 due to Covid-19) as well as at many other campsites on the borders of the Park. A popular choice for families is to stay at one of the pop-up campsites run by local farms. We’ve stayed at four different campsites over the last three years, sometimes with friends, sometimes on our own. If you’re looking to find the perfect New Forest campsite to suit you and your family, let us be your guide!
All of the campsites listed here are tent- and campervan-friendly
Harry’s Field, Frogham near Fordingbridge
Harry’s Field is a family-run pop-up campsite on the edge of the New Forest National Park. It has a friendly, welcoming vibe, hot showers, clean toilets (some portaloos) and a barn with washing up facilities, freezers for ice packs and charging stations. Food providers, such as a pizza van, sometimes visit the site and, if the mood takes them, the owners might even put on a kids outdoor disco.
The pitches for tents and campervans are spacious enough, though you are likely to find yourself fairly close to your neighbours. Our kids were happy spending their time cycling along the wide, grassy tracks and playing sports with the children who were camping across from us.
Access into the New Forest National Park from Harry’s Field is easy. A walk, or short bike ride down a quiet country lane will lead you to an open gravel track in the National Park. Walk or cycle down the hill to the right and you’ll find a stream to play in. Going straight ahead and up the hill leads you to a ridgeway with views for miles. We recommend following the ridgeway all the way to the Royal Oak pub in Fritham. It’s a 4 mile walk or cycle from Harry’s Field to the pub.
If that all sounds a bit too energetic the excellent Foresters Arms, Frogham is right next door to Harry’s Field. We visited this pub in the summer of 2020, cycling there from Chapelfield Campsite, Godshill, and found their service to be exemplary, with a great approach to keeping staff and customers safe during the coronavirus pandemic. The food was tasty too! They accept bookings, but for inside tables only. We got lucky on a sunny Sunday in August and even though we’d booked inside we were able to sit outside on the terrace.
The lovely village of Fordingbridge is two miles away from the campsite, an easy cycle on mostly quiet roads. Pop here to top up your camping supplies at the small Co-op supermarket, browse the local shops or enjoy a cream tea at Bridges Cafe on the high street.
Wondering what you might need to take with you on a camping weekend in the New Forest? Take a look at our Camping Essentials Guide which includes a printable packing list.
Chapelfield Camping, Godshill near Fordingbridge
Chapelfield, like Harry’s Field, is a pop-up campsite on a farmer’s field in the northwest corner of the New Forest. In the summer of 2020 the back field was opened up allowing for more space between campers. Camping on the back field meant that we were a little further away from the showers, but we benefitted from seeing sunsets across a wide, unobstructed sky. There were a few portaloos placed at each end of this field and these were cleaned regularly throughout the day.
Chapelfield welcomes pop-up food providers to the field. On the days we were staying a burger van and a pizza truck were on site. More exciting for the kids though was the tinkling tune of the ice cream van which drove around the campsite as the sun was going down. Chapelfield Camping rents out firepits for guests and sells wood and kindling which they’ll deliver to your pitch. They run a small shop on site selling essentials like milk and marshmallows. For a £1 deposit per pack we could use, and replenish, ice packs for our cool boxes.
Access into the New Forest National Park is easy from Chapelfield Camping. It’s a short cycle down a quiet road onto an off-road path which leads adventurous cyclists into the National Park. There’ll be streams to cross, tree roots to bounce over and gorse bushes to avoid. You might even find yourself pushing the bike at various points over some obstacles. Alternatively you could cycle out of Chapelfield, turning left at the Fighting Cocks pub, and head straight onto the open moorland of the National Park to join the gravel tracks there.
Back at the site the kids entertained themselves by perfecting tricks on their bikes and playing endless, very serious cricket matches. It was a wonderfully relaxing place to spend a couple of nights.
Teddy’s Farm, Boldre, near Lymington
At the southern end of the New Forest, just a 10 minute drive from the coast, you’ll find Teddy’s Farm, a family-run farm which opens as a pop-up campsite for tents, campervans and glamping in July and August. In the summer of 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Teddy opened up a second field to campers which gave everyone all the space they could wish for. We pitched, fairly foolishly as it turned out thanks to the strong westerly wind, on top of a hill. Thanks to the gradient we had no other campers anywhere near us. It was perfect for our group of two families.
The back field had a couple of ‘thunderbox’ toilets (compost loos), a cold fresh water tap and hand sanitiser. For any other facilities such as hot water, showers (these were open showers which were half-sheltered by hay bales during the pandemic), fire pits and wood it was a 5 minute walk to the barn on the main camping field.
Our trip to Teddy’s Farm was our first night away from home after lockdown once the restrictions on travel had been eased in England. It was the perfect place to be. The kids had acres of space to roam on their bikes, running free, playing frisbee and catch. The adults were very happy enjoying the firepit and fresh air away from any crowds.
A short drive away from Teddy’s Farm is the pretty town of Lymington which holds a market on Saturdays. Milford-on-Sea, another 5 minutes further on, is a small village with a pebble beach and a view of Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight if you are there on a clear day (we weren’t!).
Avon Tyrrell, near Burley
Avon Tyrrell is a completely different camping experience to Harry’s Field, Chapelfield or Teddy’s Farm. On the western edge of the New Forest, it’s an outdoor activity centre with guest lodges and camping pitches, some with electric hook-up, under the trees. There is an enviable choice of activities on site, from kayaking on the lake to flying across it on a zip wire, bushcraft survival skills and archery. On our visit, with four other families on a June weekend in 2018, we didn’t take part in any of this! Our kids got on their bikes and rode around the site, through the forest of rhododendron bushes, for hours and hours on end.
The camping facilities are excellent with picnic tables near the pitches, a playground and clean toilet and shower blocks. There’s a shop on site as well as a cafe to fulfil any breakfast or lunch needs your own setup might be missing.
The New Forest National Park is easily accessible from Avon Tyrrell. Just a short bike or car ride will take you into the wilderness. If you’re yearning for a blast of sea air driving south for 20 minutes will bring you to either Mudeford Quay (for excellent crabbing) or the sandy beach at Highcliffe on the Dorset coast.
Have you camped in the New Forest? Where’s your favourite spot to go?