Drive: New Forest Summer Staycation

Just a couple of hours drive from London, the New Forest is the perfect destination for a last minute summer escape. Lisa Curtiss packed the Maserati Levante and headed off for a weekend of ponies, picnics, scenic drives and sandy beach strolls.

The route out of town couldn’t be simpler – head south on the M3, past Winchester and Southampton, switch on to the M27 West and take the turning to Lyndhurst. This attractive village is the main hub of the New Forest and where you’ll find the area’s visitor center and museum. The highly acclaimed and wonderfully located 5-star Lime Wood Hotel & Spa is a short scenic stroll or bike ride away too, heading towards Beaulieu past pretty open heathland scattered with ponies grazing.

If you choose to take the train rather than drive, Brockenhurst has a mainline station where all trains direct from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, Poole or Weymouth stop. It’s just a couple of miles away from Lyndhurst and here you’ll find two other excellent places to stay – Careys Manor Hotel & Spa, which just a short walk from the station, and, tucked in peaceful countryside, The Pig – a 5 minute taxi journey. Chewton Glen is another world class 5-star hotel in the area, located just on the edge of the New Forest nearer the coast.

No trains for us this time though, as we had a beautifully crafted and luxurious Maserati Levante at our disposal.

A stunning, spacious, great to drive SUV from this stylish sporting marque. With sport mode on, the trip down was a pleasure, and we discovered it’s equally as good on the motorway, as it is sedately taking in the sights on the winding New Forest roads. It’s certainly a scene stealer – each time we parked up, the Levante seemed to attract more attention from locals and fellow visitors than the wild roaming ponies they come to see. It really is a striking, gloriously designed car – as you’d of course expect from Maserati.

If you think the New Forest is just acres and acres of trees you’d be mistaken. There are miles of purple heather fringed sandy heathlands to walk in, many offering wonderful views – especially at sunset when all the land is cast in a deep golden glow. And if you can prize yourself away from your hotel before breakfast, as the sun rises, you’ll hear curlews calling, and spot herds of dainty fallow deer grazing – maybe, if you’re lucky, even one of the majestic pure white stags which roam the region. There are many shallow ponds and streams too – perfect paddling places for those with small children. Foodies will love the many excellent award-winning pubs in the area, and artisan producers selling fabulous local fare.

At the southern edge of the New Forest you’ll find excellent beaches to enjoy. All with incredible views across to the Needles and Isle of Wight. Some are particularly lovely – Mudeford and Highcliffe are sandy, safe for swimming and great for a stroll.

You can enjoy fresh bread and pastries from a bakery on the beach, and light lunches and wine at The Noisy Lobster. Take the little boat ferry at the key side over to Mudeford Spit and Hengistbury Head where you’ll enjoy more golden sand, views for days, and be able to stroll for miles and miles either on the beach or along the fringes of scenic Christchurch Harbour.

With peaceful woodland, wide open heathland, lovely beaches and excellent, award-winning places to stay, spa and dine, the New Forest is most definitely worth a visit.

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Lisa Curtiss

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