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Discover Hampshire: An Outdoor Activities Guide

Updated: Mar 22

A summer's view of the South Downs

Outdoor Activities in Hampshire

Whatever your experience and ability, Hampshire has an abundance of outdoor activities for everyone. With its long and historic coastline, rolling hills, chalk stream valleys, and ancient woodlands, Hampshire is a great place for anyone seeking an active outdoor lifestyle. In this guide, we'll briefly explore some of the best places in Hampshire to unleash your adventurous spirit , whether you're trying walking, cycling, paddling, wild swimming or simply immersing yourself in nature.


The South Downs: Hiking, Biking and Views

The South Downs National Park, with its extensive network of trails and pathways, is a well known destination for hikers, bikers and nature lovers. Stretching from Winchester right across Hampshire and beyond, this range of chalk hills offers fantastic views across the surrounding countryside to the English Channel and Isle of Wight. The South Downs Way is a long-distance path that traverses the entire length of the park, offering a challenging yet rewarding experience for avid walkers and cyclists, but also plenty of shorter, easier options for the newcomer. Along the way you'll find some great vantage points (Cheesefoot Head, Butser Hill and Old Winchester Hill), as well as the wooded steep-sided Queen Elizabeth Country Park (the best mountain biking in Hampshire). There is also the picturesque Meon Valley (with its easy-going cycleway) and the ancient forest of Bere.

Here are some highlights of the South Downs, with loads more to explore on the Outdoor Adventure Map


The South Coast: Water sports and Coastal Beauty

Hampshire's South Coast boasts a long and historic shoreline, with some great beaches, estuaries, inlets and wetlands, and an almost uninterrupted coastal path. There are countless places to have a go at water sports, including canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and windsurfing. The Solent, a strait that separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland, is also a hotspot for sailing, hosting various regattas throughout the year. For a more relaxed experience, walks and bike rides along the flat and easy-going coastal path provide breathtaking views, while beachgoers can unwind on the sandy shores of places like Hayling Island and Milford-on-Sea.

Here are some highlights of Hampshire's coastline, with loads more to explore on the Outdoor Adventure Map


The New Forest: Cycling and Wildlife Exploration

The New Forest National Park, famous for its ancient woodland and heathland, is a haven for outdoor adventurers and nature lovers alike. With a huge network of easy-going cycling trails crisscrossing the landscape, cyclists can explore the forest's hidden gems, including the picture-postcard villages of Burley and Lyndhurst. A lovely stretch of coastline and the Beaulieu and Lymington rivers also offer some great paddling opportunities. The New Forest is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, and it's almost impossible to take a walk without spotting ponies and deer. The tranquility of the forest makes it a fantastic destination for hiking, picnicking, and connecting with nature.

Here are some highlights of the New Forest National Park, with loads more to explore on the Outdoor Adventure Map


The Basingstoke Canal: Serenity and Paddlesports

For a more relaxed outdoor experience, the Basingstoke Canal offers a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of North Hampshire. Stretching from Woking in Surrey to the outskirts of Basingstoke, this picturesque canal features tranquil waterside paths perfect for leisurely walks and cycling - it passes by several mainline train stations making it a great option for returning by train. It is also a wonderful place to canoe, kayak and paddleboard, especially for beginners as there is limited water flow and lots of easy places to access the water. Nature lovers can appreciate the canal's diverse flora and fauna, and anglers can try their luck in the peaceful waters.

Here are some highlights of the Basingstoke Canal, with loads more on the Outdoor Adventure Map


The Test Valley: Riverside Adventures

The Test Valley, named after the River Test, is an area characterized by charming villages and meandering waterways. This idyllic setting offers a range of outdoor activities, from riverside walks to cycling and swimming . The river is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and is considered one of the finest chalk streams in the world. Anglers flock to the Valley for fly fishing, while walkers can explore the picturesque villages of Stockbridge and Whitchurch, or head up into the Downs towards Winchester. The Test Way runs along the river for much of the length of the valley, with large sections that are cyclable bridleways.

Here are some highlights of the Test Valley, with loads more to explore on the Outdoor Adventure Map


The Itchen River: Historic Waterside Strolls

Flowing through the heart of Winchester and on to the sea West of Southampton, the Itchen River offers a perfect setting for outdoor activities. The chalk-bed stream allows kayakers and canoeists to navigate its gentle waters in the lower stretches, with a few spots for some family paddling up towards Winchester. The Itchen Way footpath runs uninterrupted from Winchester to the sea, providing opportunities for a great long-distance hike, but also shorter scenic walks and bird watching. One great thing about the Itchen Way is that it parallels the mainline railway and is easy to return by train. With wonderfully clear water, there are also some great swimming spots along the way. The Riverside Park on the outskirts of Winchester and the River Itchen Country Park near Eastleigh are great for picnics and fun family days out.

Here are some highlights of the Itchen River, with loads more to explore on the Outdoor Adventure Map


So, what are you waiting for?

Hampshire is a great place to get active outdoors, whether you're exploring the heights of the South Downs, embracing water sports on the South Coast, cycling through the ancient woodlands of the New Forest, paddling along the Basingstoke Canal, or hiking the Test Valley. To find the details of these and many more outdoor adventures in Hampshire, take a moment to have a look at the Outdoor Adventure Map. And don't forget, whether you need to hire a bike or board, get some tuition, or need some specialist support, there is a great network of professional outdoor providers across the county to get you started. So, don your hiking boots, grab your bike, or get yourself a paddleboard – Hampshire awaits your next outdoor adventure.

Finally, if you're new to all this and need to understand a little more about how to get started and how to stay safe, we have loads of useful pointers in our advice centre.

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