Hampshire & the Isle of Wight walking guide: The best and most unique walks

Looking for the best and most unique walks in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight? You’re in luck, because stunning Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are heaven for walkers, whether you’re looking for somewhere to take the family at the weekend, or a nature haven to escape to whilst the kids are at school.

With an array of places to explore to suit your needs, we’ve got you covered with the best walks in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for some fitness, fun and fresh air.

Do you need some family fun as an incentive to get some exercise? Why not embark on a Text Quest where you can work your brain too? Text Quests are a fun way to explore the charming cities of Portsmouth, Winchester and Southampton, solving clues (sent via text) whilst you’re on your way to your destination. Children and teenagers alike enjoy rising to the challenge, and it’s the best way to get your steps in as a family as you take in the sights and sounds as you look Hampshire walking ideas.

Walks in Hampshire and the Whitchurch Silk Mill
Whitchurch Silk Mill

Best walks in Winchester

Marwell Zoo, in Colden Common near Winchester, is a wonderful ‘walking safari’ destination for families. Located only 8 miles from Winchester, 5 from Eastleigh and 12 from Southampton, the 140-acre parkland is the home of 1208 animals of 149 species! How many animals can you spot? 

Be patient whilst you soak up nature and get your steps in. Animals may be resting or under a den, but you can return later after exploring other parts of the parkland. And they might pop up when you’re least expecting. Enjoy the anticipation of not knowing which animal you’ll spot next!

Fancy more animal experiences in Hampshire? Check out our itinerary!

The Whitchurch Mill Trail is one of three Basingstoke Heritage Trails, a circular walk of up to 7 miles with shorter circuits available, along the River Test. Refuel at Riverside Café at Whitchurch Silk Mill for lunch. Stroll through the historic town of Whitchurch. Enjoy the quiet water meadows where watercress was grown. There’s not many places on the upper Test where you can get full access to the riverbank, but you can on The Whitchurch Mill Trail!

Walks in Southampton area

Hampshire Royal Victoria Country Park walking
Royal Victoria Country Park

After you have visited the SeaCity Museum and Tudor House and gardens head over to the Southampton Common is an oasis of nature in the heart of the city, with 365 acres of woodland, rough grassland, wetlands, lakes, ponds and parkland. Kids can enjoy a giant play area, as well as places to eat for the family. 

This tranquil location is the ideal walk for you if you’re craving some peace and quiet away from the chaos of life. You can walk at Swanwick Lakes Nature Reserve on the same day as a visit to the nearby The Brickworks Museum. The nature reserve was formed from the brick factory’s clay pits! If you’re a bird lover, the woodlands, lakes and meadows here are brought to life with birdsong in the spring, so expect woodpecker drumming and rare species such as marsh tits. You can also spot various butterfly species, with the meadows in full bloom in the summer and follow the paths where clay was taken from the pits to the kilns before visiting the museum or its cafe. 

The arboretum, Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey covers a whopping 180 acres housing over 42,000 trees and shrubs – an almost unparalleled collection of oaks, camellia, magnolia and rhododendron. A place of life throughout the seasons with carefully crafted plants.

Across the water in Netley is one of Hampshire Countryside Service’s most accessible parks for wheelchair and pushchair users, Royal Victoria Country Park. With flat and smooth paths and ramp access leading to the beach, you can also expect woodland canopies, the duck pond, the chapel and the graveyard with walking trails steeped in history.

Stunning walks in the New Forest

The New Forest is a sanctuary for walks in Hampshire as it extends over 140,000 acres across Hampshire and into Wiltshire.

Hampshire’s Country Parks provide ample opportunity to soak up the beauty and nature Hampshire has to offer. Thinking of  the New Forest for your day out? Why not challenge yourself to the circular 5-mile (8km) Lepe Loop at Lepe Country Park? This walk has the best of both coastal and countryside, as well as idyllic views of The Solent. Breathe in the peacefulness as you follow the beach along, until you get to the rolling green of the Hampshire countryside. 

Best walks in hampshire Exbury Gardens
Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway in Spring

You’ll find some beautiful coastal walks in Calshot, where you can enjoy the far-stretching views out over the water towards Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Park your car at The Calshot Activities Centre where there are also toilets and a cafe onsite during opening hours. Are you a History nerd? Visit the picturesque Calshot Castle, built by Henry VIII in 1539 to defend the sea passage to Southampton. Climb to the top to take in the spectacular views of The Solent. Did you know Calshot was used as an RAF base? Whilst you’re in the area, don’t miss the large indoor WW1 aeroplane hangars! 

Cyclexperience may be a bike hire centre, but it’s also a local information point, so you can buy maps for sale to find and follow walking routes throughout the New Forest. The Cyclex team offers local advice, and you can download the Cyclexperience App too for walkers and bikers alike – It’s free!

Did you know that Beaulieu means ‘beautiful place’ and the gardens, once the grounds of Beaulieu Abbey, at The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu are just that! Check out their Garden explorer itinerary to really get the most out of visiting and be sure to look for the tiny doors that the fairies are said to call their home!

Open from mid march until the end of October, Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway welcome well behaved dogs on leads who can even travel the steam train with you! An ever-changing palette of colour throughout the seasons and an impressive collection of landscaped woodland, herbaceous, contemporary, formal and wildflower gardens.

Places to walk in the Portsmouth area

Walking in Gilbert White's Estate
Gilbert White’s Estate

Another great location to find walks in Hampshire is in Portsmouth. If you don’t mind a climb, Portsdown Hill is a must-see. With expansive views overlooking Portsmouth, the harbour, and the surrounding land, it’s definitely worth your while. And you can also enjoy hill-top walks at Fort Nelson Downland Area and Portsdown Hill Nature Reserve.

Why not finish your walk by grabbing some hot drinks and light refreshments at Fort Nelson Cafe if you’re close by? Stop by the Royal Armouries Museum with free admission and check out the national collection of artillery.

Explore stunning countryside on walks from Butser Ancient Farm! Discover an ancient village at this dog-friendly site, nestled into the rolling South Downs, and enjoy its free visitor car parking and small café. With reconstructed ancient homes, rare breed animals, activities and ancient skills sessions, this is a fascinating corner of Hampshire to walk through. Not to mention, Butser is a great option for walkers of all levels of fitness, with local routes and easy walking and cycling links to Queen Elizabeth Country Park and the surrounding areas.

The South Downs Queen Elizabeth Country Park, is a beloved site for local walkers. With over 2,000 acres of downland and woodland, the possibilities are endless. You can stick to waymarked woodland trails for 2.7km, 3km or 8km, go for a longer stretch across the sloping Butser Hill, or even brave the Staunton Way, a minimum of 8.5 miles all the way to Staunton Country Park.

If you’re closer to Havant, Staunton Country Park offers three main walks through breathtaking parkland. This includes an easy access (2.6km), medium walking trail (2.2km), and longer walking trail (5.1km). Explore follies, woodland and a 3.5-acre lake, and if you fancy a break, why not grab some cake and relax in the Regency Tea Rooms? Little ones can also let off steam in the outdoor play area.

Walks in Hampshire at Chawton House
Chawton House

Alton area

Visit the ancient market town, Alton, the Watercress Line‘s picturesque location makes it an ideal visit for a wonderful rural walk. Combine a day out on the heritage steam trains with a walk to Chawton House and Jane Austen House, which are both within walking distance from Alton. Alternatively, you can explore the Watercress Way or Millennium Trail from Alresford.

Nestled between Selborne Common and the Lythes (National Trust), Gilbert White’s House & Gardens is a relaxation haven. There’s a café and local walking booklets available from the shop. Whilst the National Trust reserves provide classic chalk downland, Gilbert’s grounds provide 25 acres of beautiful cottage gardens and wildflower meadows.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll, with dogs on leads, through the picturesque parkland surrounding Chawton House, with one of their free wider estate walks. With two routes through the parkland, walkers can stop and enjoy stunning views across the countryside of Chawton House, the Gardens, and St. Nicholas Church. Feel stress fade away as you take in the views. And, for more canine friendly activities view our guide on dog friendly places to walk in Hampshire.

Best Walks in the Isle Of Wight

You may have visited the Isle of Wight many times before, but have you ever truly stepped off the beaten track and explored on foot…

The stunning scenery coupled with its own ‘sunnier than the rest of the UK’ microclimate make the Island a walkers’ paradise at any time of year.

With over 50% of the Island designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and one of few places in the UK to gain UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status for its unspoiled landscape, clear waters and thriving wildlife – it is awash with photo opportunities.

Walks in Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight

You’ll also find an abundance of countryside and coastal walks on the Isle Of Wight with over 500 miles of footpaths to choose from, whether you’re needing easy or challenging routes, and anything in between. Looking for more of a challenge? Try The Freshwater Bay to the Needles circular route.

Travelling to the island

The Isle of Wight is easy to get to, and once you are there you won’t want to leave! So whether you’re travelling to the Island with your family, as a couple, or alone you can easily get to the Island from the south coast of England, to ports on the north side of the Island, via Hovertravel, Wightlink travelling from Portsmouth to Fishbourne or Red Funnel ferries.

Sail across to the Island from Southampton for a day of outdoor adventuring with Red Funnel, from just £25.50 for a car and up to seven people. Or why not start your ramble from the moment you leave the house and board the Hi-Speed Red Jet service on foot. Landing in the heart of Cowes, connect with the rest of the Island by bus or bike from the ferry terminal or simply head right through the high-street and follow the sea all the way along to Gurnard, with its pebble beach, large green, kids play park and family friendly pub. This is a lovely flat walk (35 – 45 minutes from Cowes) for all ages and mobility. Come across as a family on foot for just £39.10, or ask for the Super Off-Peak Day Return – just £11.20 per person when two or more people travel together after 1055am.

We hope you enjoy discovering the best walks in Hampshire and don’t forget to stay up to date with all the latest news at Hampshire’s Top Attractions by following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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