When it comes to outdoor activities, Hampshire does not disappoint. It’s home to two National Parks which have a whole slew of things to do. So whether you want to stay on dry land or head out onto the water, here are some of the best things to do outdoors in Hampshire.
Explore National Parks
Want to get involved in a wide range of outdoor activities? Head to Hampshire’s National Parks where you can explore nature to your heart’s content. The New Forest National Park covers an area of 566 square kms and is made up of beautifully unspoilt woodland, heathland and river valleys. Meanwhile, the South Downs National Park covers an area of 1,627 square kms. In addition to the chalk hills of the South Downs, the Park includes lush pastures, wide open spaces, ancient woodlands, river valleys and scenic coastline. A keen rambler? The Park has more walking routes than any other National Park in the UK. If you’re more of a cyclist, the South Downs National Park doesn’t disappoint when it comes to cycling trails. As well as the 160km South Downs Way, there are also shorter routes which weave in and around the Park. There are more than 2,000 miles of tracks and footpaths between the two, as well as an abundance of wildlife to be spotted like free roaming deer, donkeys and ponies. So whichever National Park you visit, you’re bound to experience the very best of Hampshire’s great outdoors!
What would a day out in Hampshire be without a trip to the waterfront? Watersports is a popular pastime in Hampshire, and the county boasts an excellent selection of harbours, marinas and estuaries to use as a base. If you fancy sailing, make your way to the River Hamble, one of the UK’s leading yachting centres. Looking to go windsurfing? Hayling Island, Hill Head and Calshot Beach are the best places to be. If you prefer something a little more relaxing, it’s worth exploring by kayak or stand up paddle board. The best locations to get started are Calshot Beach and Beaulieu River. If you’re new to watersports, you may find it useful to visit the Calshot Activity Centre near the New Forest. Here you can find lessons in sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and powerboating.
Hampshire has a wonderful selection of gardens to enjoy, whether you have a green thumb or not. Exbury Gardens is one of the top choices. This 200 acre woodland garden boasts a stunning collection of woodland, formal and wildflower gardens. Bordering the Beaulieu River, there are plenty of tranquil walks to get lost on. Another famous garden is Mottisfont Abbey. In the summer months, the breathtaking rose garden boasts a range of vibrant colours and scents. There’s a winter garden too, along with a riverside walk that meanders along the tree-lined banks of the River Test. Make sure to visit the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens where you’ll find fascinating displays of plants and habitats, such as the Bog Garden, Winter Garden, Heather Garden, Himalayan Valley, Acer Valley and Hydrangea Walk.
How about a garden with a side of vino? With its warm climate and chalky terrain, Hampshire is home to several fantastic vineyards which make high quality English sparkling and white wine. In east Hampshire and the South Downs National Park, you’ll find the award-winning vineyards of Hambledon Vineyard and Hattingley Valley Vineyard which offer tours between spring and late September. You’ll also find the Three Choirs Vineyard which has a popular tutored wine and cheese tasting course. In the New Forest National Park, you’ll find Setley Ridge Vineyard near Brockenhurst. As well as the usual tours and tastings, the vineyard also has a tea room, farm shop, garden centre and nursery. If you find yourself in the Test Valley region, make sure to stop by Black Chalk. This vineyard offers tours, tastings and a tasty winemakers lunch.
If you’re looking to put a fun twist on one of your regular walks, a Treasure Trail is an exciting way of exploring the sights around you. A Treasure Trail is a self-guided themed walk where you have to uncover clues and solve puzzles as you embark on either a murder mystery, a treasure hunt or a spy trail. It’s easy to do in your own time too – all you have to do is download a trail from TreasureTrails.co.uk and get started! There are plenty of Treasure Trails in Hampshire to explore, with five in Winchester alone!
For the thrill-seekers in pursuit of something more fast and furious, quad biking is one of the most exciting outdoor activities in Hampshire. Head into the heart of the Hampshire countryside as you drive across mud tracks and bound across rough terrain. There are various quad biking centres across Hampshire, one the most popular ones being Marwell Activity Centre. Most of the centres have a fantastic selection of tracks which are suitable for beginners and experienced riders.