The small town of Lyndhurst lies on the A35 and A337 and is the “capital” of the Forest, with hotels, information center, cycle hire and pony-trekking. In the Victorian parish church of St. Michael, the colorful east window and the north transept windows were designed by Burne-Jones.
A few miles northeast is Beaulieu (pronounced “Bewly”), a beautiful village at the head of a tidal river. In 1952, the landowner, Lord Montagu, created a discreet but hugely successful tourist complex here with the Motor Museum, displaying 200 vintage automobiles, and his own stately home, Beaulieu Abbey.
River trips will take you to Buckler’s Hard, an 18th-century shipyard where Nelson’s ships were built from New Forest oak. On the far side of the river, a few miles downstream, lie Exbury Gardens. Here you can wander among one of the world’s greatest collections of exotic shrubs, whose colors and scents are at their most vibrant in May and June.