Review: our socially-distant seaside break by the New Forest
Fancying a post-lockdown seaside staycation within a three-hour drive? Pack a picnic and bucket and spade and head to the beach for a long socially-distanced weekend...
Oh I do like to be beside the seaside! There’s just one problem with that – beautiful blue-flag beaches are pretty hard to come by in our landlocked county but the coast isn’t too far away for a quick getaway with the kids, your partner, or your dog.
We travelled from Warwickshire to stay at Shorefield Country Park in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, for a three-night weekend autumn break with our kids – en-route to dropping our eldest off at university in Bournemouth.
This is New Forest central in all its wooded, wild-pony glory.
Shorefield Country Park is an eco-friendly, award-winning coastal holiday on the southern edge of the New Forest just a short walk away from the long shingled shores of the beach at Milford-on-Sea, close to the Isle of Wight, yachtie Lymington and 30 minutes from Bournemouth. It’s the HQ of eight holiday parks across the New Forest and Dorset.
A spacious park set in a lovely woodlands in a beautiful part of the country with lots to do for kids and within walking distance to the beach. You can stay in self-catering caravans, lodges, houses & cottage accommodation, a number of which are pet-friendly. Here’s what our three-bedroom select+ lodge looked like:
Facilities include an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, children’s play areas, hot tubs, its own supermarket, Tides Restaurant & spa.
Impressively it’s the winner of a ‘gold’ in the David Bellamy Conservation Award Scheme – one of the longest running green tourism awards – as a honey-bee friendly site, with a nature trail and new Ancient Woodland Walk taking you directly to the beachfront. All caravan and street lights are fitted with LED lights.
Our stylish well-laid out select plus lodge slept 6 with a lovely airy open-plan lounge, dining area and kitchen, three bedrooms, including one ensuite with TV, a family bathroom and large decked veranda with outdoor table and chairs, plus bbq stand.
Revamped in 2019, with new fittings, it felt modern, roomy and really light and airy with lots of windows. The kitchen was compact but fine and the accommodation ticks all the boxes – socially distanced, within walking distance to the seaside and family-friendly with two pools (indoor and out), play areas, tennis court, football court, gym and a spa.
You’ll need to pre-book for indoor and outdoor swimming, the tennis court, football court, spa and gym (where 1 hour slots with a personal trainer are available).
However I didn’t read the note to pack our own tea towels, oven gloves and towels – doh!
Very. A week before travelling I received an email to arrange Contactless Check-in and on the day of travelling down had a text with directions to our lodge and keycode.
We simply headed straight to our accommodation where our key was securely waiting, so there’s no need to pop to Reception to check out or return your key either. You can then use the online portal to let the park know when you’ve checked out.
Everywhere was spotless, you can order takeaway food delivery service direct to your door via Shorefield Park’s own app or opt dine al fresco or table service at Tides restaurant. There’s also an onsite supermarket – The Country Store (above) – to pick up any bits you may including newspapers, fresh milk, freshly baked bread, local treats or wine.
Scoff and Quaff
You’ll find the original Pig just down the road, plus Angela Hartnett’s Holder & Co at Lime Wood, a new pop-up restaurant called The Lodge Kitchen & Bar at the four-star, Balmer Lawn Hotel, and a slew of fab local pubs including lots of Muddy Hampshire‘s foodie recommendations like the Haven Bar and Restaurant for gorgeous views over the Solent and hip little eatery Greedo, both in Lymington. For neighbouring Dorset see here.
On Saturday we went for an evening sunset stroll in Milford-on Sea then picked up a Thai Takeaway, then on a sunny Sunday afternoon sat outside in the Mediterranean-style terrace to tuck into flatbreads, hand-cooked chips, and salads at The Pig Brockenhurst which we earned after our bike ride.
Out and About
Milford-on-Sea and Lymington are on your immediate doorstep with huge stretches of stunning Dorset and Hampshire coastline nearby and lots of amazing beaches – then there’s bigger towns including Bournemouth and Southampton, with the New Forest inland.
After exploring Milford-on-Sea, Lymington and Bournemouth on Saturday, we went on a leisurely New Forest cycle ride on the Sunday.
Just 20-minutes from Shorefield is Brockenhurst, where award-winning family-owned-and-run cycle hire centre Cyclexperience is based – handily right next to the train station. The forest tracks start 400m from the hire centre with routes up to 98% off-road. They have more than 300 bikes for all ages and abilities, including the largest E-Bike fleet in the area, and eight routes to choose from including ‘deer and beer’ or the Lizard Loop.
Their most popular family-friendly one is the Ornamental Woods route which varies between nine and 15 miles with a pub stop en-route. We were emailed the route map in advance; they also have a free app from where you can download the route.
Our bikes were all ready for us as requested our ages and heights in advance – and our scenic route took in New Forest wild ponies, cows, a deer park within a wildlife conservation area and the ornamental woods themselves – which look like something out of Jurassic Park film set! We were lucky as it was a gorgeous day.
If you love cycling but don’t want the hassle of attaching bikes to your car or are travelling by train, it’s a great, convenient option.
Milford-on Sea is also a great place to go paddle boarding. This small coastline town is home to the family-owned New Forest Paddle Sport Company where you can book lessons or hire SUPs. You can even SUP with your dog! They run a variety of paddle boarding experiences including a sunset picnic and a two-hour moonlight paddle to Hurst Castle.
Other family-friendly water-based activities include discovering the Beaulieu River in a kayak or canoe, the New Forest Water Park and days out on the Solent. While animal-mad children will enjoy the New Forest Wildlife Park.
Check out Muddy Hampshire and Isle of Wight and Muddy Dorset for brilliant tips on the best local attractions with cool insider alternatives. There’s more ideas, what’s on news and things to do on the New Forest’s official guide here.
Good for: You can’t beat a beach walk and a blast of fresh salty air! Whether you’re after a kid-friendly weekender or a week-long getaway it’s a very good value option with lots of on-site facilities and accommodation available for differing budgets close to award-winning blue-flag beaches, the New Forest – and Muddy-approved pubs.
Not for: Anyone who really doesn’t like being overlooked – and those craving bright lights and big-city thrills may find Milford-on-Sea a tad serene. But to be honest, that’s the whole point – you come here for seaside and some R&R. Bournemouth is close by for nightlife (until the 10pm curfew) and shops. If you’re after a quirky, English country cottage or a property on the sea, have a squizz at the Muddy recommended New Forest Cottages.
Cost: A four-night break with accommodation in a luxury caravan costs from £189 or from £376 staying in a lodge. Three nights in a three-bedroom select plus lodge costs from £689 up to £809 in half-term.
Hot-off-the press 2021 sees the opening of luxury treehouses at Shorefield sleeping up to six, with outdoor hot tubs in secluded woodlands.
For bookings call 01590 648 333 or go to shorefield.co.uk.