9 reasons to staycation in Milford on Sea

Enjoy a beach break on your doorstep

Enjoy a beach break on your doorstep - Credit: Visit Milford on Sea

From paddle boarding and birdwatching to walks and fine dining, Milford on Sea offers everything you need for the perfect break and more

Wildlife spots galore. Check. Fabulous food and drink. Check. Sensational sea views. Check. When it comes to a staycation destination Milford on Sea certainly does tick all the boxes. In the height of summer, the shingle spit is teeming with people toing and froing along to Hurst Castle. And finding a table in one of the many village eateries is nigh on impossible. But that’s the best thing about being a local. The knowledge that, come spring, when the weather begins to brighten and the chill in the air fades to a warm breeze, our coastal beauty spots are possibly even more wonderful than those balmy summer months.  

Spring is the perfect time to visit Milford on Sea before the crowds descend for the summer

Spring is the perfect time to visit Milford on Sea before the crowds descend for the summer - Credit: Visit Milford on Sea

Without the crowds, you can enjoy Milford in all its welcoming glory. Never have I had so many friendly nods, chats and hellos in one single village. The residents here seem to really love the visitors, which is rare, and makes for an even more pleasant stay.  

Staying in one of the gorgeous cottages just off the main square, which is rented out through New Forest Escapes, we felt right in the middle of things. The walk down to the beachfront took about 15 minutes, even accompanied by little legs, and our breakfast spot at Saltwater Café was just a quick dash across the road. Head here for a local Full English, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, excellent coffee and tried and tested smoothies that will set you up for the day ahead.  

Head down along the spit to find bridges perfect for crabbing

Head down along the spit to find bridges perfect for crabbing - Credit: Elizabeth Kirby

A big draw for many people to the area is Milford’s Sturt Pond; a small inlet which has become a haven for visiting birdlife. Local conservationist, Keith Metcalf, met us at the hide behind über cool restaurant and bar The Lighthouse, to show us some of Milford’s feathered friends. Flocks of Brent geese were a dramatic sight as they descended down on to the pond from a nearby field, spooked by the soaring kite surfers on the shoreline. Keith’s expert eyes also picked out redshank, lapwing and pied wagtails; while seeing a cormorant’s glistening feathers through Keith’s telescopic lens was a real delight for my five-year-old, who was captivated by the busy activity on the pond.   

Just down from the pond, as you stroll towards the spit are two bridges, renowned locally for being excellent spots for crabbing. A resident we met in the hide told us she caught 99 crabs in one sitting once. So, with high hopes we set off with our lines and bucket...not forgetting the all-important bacon lure. After 45 minutes we’d caught one single solitary crab, not quite having the knack of the locals. But the excitement and anticipation of each pull up was entertainment enough for our two boys and certainly worked up an appetite.  

Milford on Sea's village green is lined with boutique shops, The Cave wine bar and cool spot for lunch and brunch

Milford on Sea's village green is lined with boutique shops, The Cave wine bar and cool spot for lunch and brunch - Credit: Visit Milford on Sea

Which leads us on to Milford’s other jewel in its crown, its incredible food and drink offerings. From bijou cafés and country pubs to a fine dining fish restaurant, quirky taproom and stylish wine bar. For a small village, Milford’s dining establishments are enviable to say the least. We had two wonderful evening meals during our stay, first at The Beach House, which overlooks The Needles and offers family-friendly dining and Hall & Woodhouse’s great selection of ales in a truly unique historic setting. We were fascinated to find out The Grade II listed house was built in 1897 for Alexander Siemens (who created the world’s first public electricity supply at Godalming) as a summer house for his family. Many original features remain such as the wood panelling and stained-glass windows, and the staff help to bring the history to life by sharing facts about the past. The food here is of a great standard, and the children’s activity packs helped to keep the peace (although mainly they wanted to stare out of the windows, the view here is really spectacular).  

The Gun Inn offers local produce and seasonal dishes

The Gun Inn offers local produce and seasonal dishes - Credit: The Gun Inn

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Second was cosy and comforting The Gun Inn, which is a short drive or around a 20-minute walk along to nearby Keyhaven Yacht Club. With roaring log fires and quirky décor (our eldest was thoroughly entertained by the collection of matchboxes on the ceiling above our table, spotting all those with his favourite airplanes on.) The menu is full of seasonal, locally sourced produce such as Solent skate wing and New Forest wild mushrooms on sourdough. The wine list was superb, as were the puddings, and it was great to see a local beer made down the road being promoted at the bar. The management team also run The Grapes in Southampton and The Bosun’s Chair in Lymington if you fancy more of the same thing.  

Find interiors havens, fresh florals and remarkable antiques on a mooch around Milford on Sea

Find interiors havens, fresh florals and remarkable antiques on a mooch around Milford on Sea - Credit: Visit Milford on Sea

As well as offering a vast selection of good dining options, Milford on Sea is also excellent for a mooch. Award-winning No.64 Biscuit House has exclusive interior buys while Noah Valentine Antiques can will certainly produce a unique holiday memento. Or for fresh florals, head to New Seasons Florist and take in the beautiful blooms. For the perfect lunch spot after your shopping, we tried Paddle on the Green. Another excellent provider of much-needed caffeine, the Scandi vibe was calm and relaxing and the ciabatta sandwiches and toasties were utterly delicious.  

With so much more left to do, we will certainly return to this vibrant edge of the New Forest which seems to offer much for everyone. Whether it’s leisurely coastal strolls, bracing bike rides along the saltwater marshes, or daring dips in the sea, Milford has it all in spades.  

The coastline is the perfect place to learn how to paddleboard 

The coastline is the perfect place to learn how to paddleboard - Credit: Visit Milford on Sea

9 activties in Milford on Sea 

1. Visit Hurst Castle, an artillery fortress built by Henry VIII at the seaward end of the coastal spit. Commanding the entrance to the Solent, it offers the one of the best views in England. The castle opens for the season on 1 April and is open 7 days a week until the end of October.

2. Milford on Sea and Keyhaven are known for their great paddle boarding – check out thenewforestpaddlesportcompany.co.uk who offer tuition and experiences. Sunset paddling, moonlight SUP and trips to The Needles are available. 

3. Book an alternative break at Vinegar Hill Pottery on a one- and three-day pottery courses with accommodation available. vinegarhillpottery.co.uk 

4. Golf lovers can enjoy the unrivalled sea views at Barton on Sea Golf Club and have the choice of three 18-hole combinations. bosgc.co.uk

5. Explore other parts of the New Forest from Milford on Sea with the New Forest Tour open top bus, which stops at Hurst Road and Sea Road in Milford on Sea. thenewforesttour.info 

6. Learn to row with Rowing Adventures - available to anyone 8 years up – from Keyhaven or Lymington. rowingadventures.co.uk 

You can cycle all the way to Lymington along the coastal path

You can cycle all the way to Lymington along the coastal path - Credit: Visit Milford on Sea

7. Hire bikes from New Forest Bikes who deliver to your holiday accommodation in Milford on Sea. newforestbikes.co.uk 

8. Cycle or walk the Solent Way Coastal Path which can be accessed via Keyhaven, taking in the Lymington & Keyhaven Nature Reserve. 

9. Head to Milford on Sea Music Festival on 5-8 May 2022 on the village green and enjoy a four-day event that climaxes on the Saturday night with a tribute act, attracting thousands of visitors.  

Saltwater Cottage is the perfect place to relax after a busy day exploring

Saltwater Cottage is the perfect place to relax after a busy day exploring - Credit: New Forest Escapes

Book your stay 
A three-night stay at Saltwater Cottage through New Forest Escapes starts from around £700 to book call 01590 462005 : email hello@newforestescapes.com or visit newforestescapes.com. Head to visitmilfordonsea.co.uk for more information on the village and guides for what’s on and what to do.