As a child my memories of family holidays up to around the age of 8 centred around heading either to Norfolk, Cornwall, Wales or the Lake District. Where the majority of the time we would have our caravan towed behind us or stuffed into the car with our Irish Red Setter and all the camping gear. It's memories like those that are one of the reasons why I want to travel with the kids. Our first family camping trip and one we have returned to again is to the New Forest Campsite at Holmsley with the Camping and Caravan Club.
Camping in the Forest with the Camping and Caravan Club
We are press members of the Camping and Caravan Club however, all views are our own. Please see our disclosure policy for more information.
Camping in the forest is a joint project between the Forestry Commission and The Camping and Caravanning Club ("The friendly Club") - and has 15 sites around the country based in some of the UK's ancient woodlands and 12 of them are dog-friendly too!
You camp surrounded by the wonder of some of the UK's most spectacular forests. With a combination of "roughing it" sites, with basic facilities, to those that are more similar to the Club Sites that Camping and Caravan club have around the UK there are options for everyone.
Although I grew up camping under canvas and under the stars Dad hasn't so we needed a great experience to introduce the kids and him to camping so that we would do it more often as a family as a budget friendly option for vacation time and short breaks.
So Holmsley was the one that we took our first family camping trip to.
Holmsley Campsite - Camping in the NEw Forest
With large pitches and a really friendly atmosphere, it's a fantastic site for new campers as well as seasoned pro's.
As an introduction to camping for the family Holmsey was a great campsite. It was more like a cross between a caravan park and a campsite than the campsites that I was used to growing up.
With 600 pitches that accommodate tents, caravans and motorhomes there is plenty of space, however, it is a popular campsite and on a sunny bank holiday weekend in summer it can get crowded.
This campsite in the New Forest is really in the heart of the New Forest. As you drive to the campsite you can see on the side of the road the famous New Forest Ponies as well as the forest and open spaces around you.
Built on a WWII airfield and training base this a great family campsite to take the kids and your dog to explore the Hampshire area.
Read about our return and how to release your inner child and disconnect with Camping in the Forest.
Facilities at Holmsley Camping in the forest
Unlike some of the smaller camping in the forest sites this has all of the factilities that you will need for an extended stay as well as your family camping.
- Washing Facilities for dishes
- WC and Showers
- Shop - with basic food, non-alcoholic drinks and alcoholic drinks as well as games and extras that you may have forgotten
- The takeaway is open for hot food at the shop (check hours as these vary seasonally and daily)
- Pitches with electric hookups both on the grass and hard standing
- Play area for kids
Things to do around Holmsley with Kids
There are so many attractions in the area that it's hard to choose just a few but here are our favourite activities to do with kids around Holmsey Campsite with Kids
Exploring the New Forest On Foot
One of our favourite activities is to head out of the campsite and explore the area on foot.
There are so many public footpaths and bridleways around that you can walk and walk as much or as little as you want.
Get a good map. We recommend the OS Maps and pack one with us when ever we go camping. It's also a great way to get the kids used to reading maps and using compasses a skill that is rapidly disappearing.
Park Ranger Visits
During the school holidays in the UK (end of July to the first week in September) there is a once a week Forest Ranger service that comes around to teach the kids about the environment and wildlife in the New Forest.
They bring with them a selection of hands-on activities including pelts, skins and more.
If like us your kids are interested in wildlife and nature then this is ideal and our kids loved this when we visited.
PAultons Family Theme Park
The first time we visited the site we had preschoolers so a trip to Paulton's Family Theme Park was high on their list of activities because of Peppa Pig World.
Unfortunately, you can't take dogs into the theme park, so we were lucky enough to have relatives that lived nearby that looked after the dog whilst we headed to Paultons and Peppa Pig World.
Cycling in the New Forest
If you don't bring your bicycles with you don't worry it's really easy to hire bikes in the New Forest. Two companies were recommended to us by the campsite wardens.
Both of these companies supply a variety of bikes and will deliver to the campsite when booked ahead of time.
They both offer tag-along bikes for children which is the perfect way for little ones that are too big for bike seats and don't have the strength for longer cycles to join you as well.
For older children there are a variety of bike sizes too.
There are so many great cycling routes around the New Forest you really need to research where you are going to go based on your levels and what you want to see.
The Hampshire Coast
With a car, it's really easy to get to the Hampshire coast.
With a mix of nature reserves and child-friendly beaches, there is something for everyone. Check out the Hampshire Beaches and Coast information on Visit Hampshire to find out more information and where is best to go.
Built by Henry VIII this coastal fortress is great to visit with children.
From the central keep, you can see across to the Isle of Wight.
This is one of the best-preserved Tudor castles in the UK and the keep is very much as you would have seen it at the time.
Head over to the Hurst Castle Site to find out more.
Holmsley Campsite - for Kids and Dogs
Facilities for Kids
Holmsley campsite is a large campsite which if you visit during a quieter time is fantastic. But, being one of the larger and more popular sites in the New Forest it can get pretty crowded and loud on a sunny summer bank holiday.
There is plenty of open space to explore around and the facilities are great for families. However, there is only the one children's park which at times can be crowded and the big kids can take over.
It was extremely useful to have a shop on site as essentials like milk can be bought daily rather than heading off-site to find a store. The takeaways were also nice and a great alternative to cooking in the tent.
- Full facilities for families
- Great for open space
- Right in the heart of the New Forest
- Dog-friendly when on leads and well behaved
- Shop on site
- Can get very crowded on bank holiday weekends as it is a popular site