Independent guides for the modern tourist
Independent guides for the modern tourist
Milford-on-Sea is a pretty village that offers the best of both the New Forest and the west Hampshire coastline.
At the heart of Milford-on-Sea is a traditional Highstreet and village green, while the dramatic coastline comprises of huge shingle beaches and highly eroded cliffs.
The strong tidal currents that flow along the coastline have created a shingle peninsula (Hurst Spit) that juts out into the Solent Estuary. The headland of Hurst Spit is only 1.2km from the Isle of Wight, and this location has been a key defensive position since Henry VIII constructed a castle here in 1640.
On the leeward side of Hurst Spit are the calm waterways and lagoons of Keyhaven Marshes. This protected coastline is a haven for sea birds and marine life, and provides scenic nature trails that lead to the town of Lymington.
The characterful Edwardian buildings on Milford-on-Sea Highstreet
Milford-on-Sea may only be a small village, but it has become one of the best locations in the New Forest for dining and eating out. Around the village green and along the Highstreet are many outstanding restaurants, characterful pubs and bustling cafes.
To the west of Milford-on-Sea is the pretty shingle beach of Hordle Cliff beach, while along the cliff tops are coastal footpaths offering views over the Solent and Isle of Wight.
Milford-on-Sea may not be as famous as its neighbouring towns of Lymington or Christchurch, but there is a lot to see, and is highly recommended for a day trip.
Related articles: Lymington - Christchurch
Hurst Castle – A heavily fortified castle, built to withstand 19th-century naval attack, with two wings of massive cannons that guarded the Solent Estuary up until 1950.
Dinning in Milford-on-Sea – Milford-on-Sea is the gastronomical centre of the New Forest, and boasts a diverse selection of high-end restaurants.
Hordle Cliff beach – A delightful shingle beach lined with colourful beach huts that looks over the Isle of Wight
Coastal walks – Milford-on-Sea is the starting point for many varied coastal walks. You can hike along the shingle bank to Hurst castle, follow the clifftops to Taddiford Gap, or meander around the nature trails in Keyhaven Marshes.
The Keyhaven Marshes
Milford-on-Sea is a great destination for a day trip, and there are sufficient sights to fill a day of sightseeing; especially if you enjoy walking.
The main attraction for a day trip to Milford-on-Sea is Hurst castle, but the sights of the village are spread out over a surprisingly large area. The village centre is 0.5km inland from the coastline, while the ferry to Hurst Castle departs from Keyhaven, a tiny village 1.5km east from Milford-on-Sea.
It is possible to walk along the shingle bank to Hurst Castle, but it is a deceptively challenging route, due to walking on pebbles and the constant sea breezes.
The main beach of Milford-on-Sea (Hordle Cliff beach) is to the west of the village, and is 1.2km from the village green.
Below is an interactive map of Milford-on-Sea. The main sights of the region are marked in green, and the best restaurants are marked in yellow.
Sights of Milford (green): 1) The Highstreet 2) Hordle Cliff beach 3) Hurst castle 4) Hurst Point Lighthouse 5) Hurst shingle bank 6) All Saints Church 7) Sturt Pond 8) Keyhaven harbour 9) Keyhaven Marshes and nature trails 10) Hurst castle ferry
Eateries (yellow): 1) Verveine Fishmarket 2) Le Perle 3) The Cave 4) The Lighthouse 5) The Lazy Lion 6) The Smugglers Inn 7) Britannia Thai 8) Monsoori Heights 9) Ray's Italian Kitchen 10) Saltwater Cafe
The 13th century All Saints Church
Advice: A day trip to Milford-on-sea could be easily combined with Lymington. We would suggest the morning in Lymington (as it gets busy during the day) and come to Milford-on-Sea for lunch and the afternoon.
Related articles: Lymington guide
Sturt Pond is a tidal lagoon and is part of the Keyhaven marshes
Hurst Castle is a sombre and imposing fort that was constructed to guard the Solent Estuary, and much of the complex that can be seen today dates from the 1860s.
At the centre of the fortifications is a Tudor castle, built during the reign of Henry the VIII in 1540. The Tudor keep is dwarfed by the two wings of guns batteries, which were designed to withstand attack by 19th-century battleships. Housed in the gun batteries were thirty massive cannons, each of which could fire a 360kg shell across the 1.2km stretch of water to the Isle of Wight.
One of the massive cannons overlooking the Solent Estuary
Hurst Castle is a fascinating historic building to visit, which combines a medieval castle with some of the strongest fortifications found in Britain. As part of your visit, you can see the gun batteries, the Tudor keep, head down to the dungeons used to store the ammunition, and climb up to the viewpoints.
The castle is managed by English Heritage, and the entrance fee is £4.00/£2.00 (Adult/child).
The 19th-century barracks and the two lighthouses
The view from the castle’s battlements across the Solent Estuary
Hurst Castle is positioned at the end of Hurst Shingle Bank, and there are no roads leading to it. The two means of travel to the castle are;
1) Catch the ferry from Keyhaven
2) Walk the 2.8km along the shingle bank from Milford-on-Sea.
For most visitors, the ferry is the best way to travel to Hurst castle. The ferry to Hurst Castle departs from the small harbour at Keyhaven, which is 1.5km east of Milford-on-Sea. A return on the ferry costs £7.00/£4.00 (adult/child), and the journey takes 10 minutes. At Keyhaven harbour, there is a large car park.
Advice: If you just want to visit the castle, it is better to park at Keyhaven than to park in Milford-on-Sea and then walk to Keyhaven.
The ferry to Keyhaven waiting at Hurst Castle
The walk from Milford-on-Sea to Hurst Castle is surprisingly difficult. The route is along the top of the shingle bank, which means walking on small pebbles, and there is often a strong sea breeze.
For the walk, you will want to park at "Hurst Road East Car Park", which is at the start of the shingle bank and close to "The Lighthouse" restaurant.
After visiting the castle, you will have to realistically return via the shingle bank route, as the ferry travels to Keyhaven 1.5km from the car park.
It is possible to cycle along the shingle bank with a good mountain bike, but the route is not suitable for small wheels (such as scooters, prams or road bikes).
Milford-on-sea has a shingle coastline, and there no sandy beaches close to the village.
The largest beach is to the west of Milford-on-sea, at the base of the Hordle Cliffs. This is a very picturesque beach, with rows of multi-coloured beach huts, and views across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. Hordle Cliff beach comprises mostly of shingle with small patches of sand along the water edge. The beach has clean sea waters and is suitable for families.
The colourful beach huts of Milford-on-Sea’s pebble beach
Towards the east of Milford-on-sea, the longshore drift and winter storms have washed away the banks of shingle. Here the beaches are a mix of sea defences and narrow banks of shingle. These smaller beaches are not really suitable for a beach day.
The narrow shingle beaches to the east of Milford-on-Sea
The shingle spit that leads towards Hurst Castle is too steep, too blustery, and not suitable as a beach.
There is a sheltered beach on the eastern side of the Hurst Castle Spit, just north of the Hurst Point Lighthouse. This is a calm and peaceful beach, but its inaccessibility (either to catch the ferry or hike along the Hurst Shingle bank) means it is not a viable beach option.
Insight: Up until the 1950s, Milford-on-sea had a beautiful sandy coastline, with sand being carried by the longshore drift from Bournemouth bay. With the construction of sea defences at Bournemouth and Highcliffe, this natural movement of sand stopped, and the coastline of Milford-on-sea has been eroding ever since.
Advice: The best sandy beach close to Milford is Avon Beach in the town of Highcliffe. Barton-on-Sea is closer, but its beaches are a mix of shingle and sand.
Related articles: The best beach of the New Forest region
All Saints Church is a charming 13th-century church, which has barely altered since its construction. Notable features are the carving of a man playing the bagpipes and the Victorian stain glass window that depicts King Charles I being held prisoner in Hurst castle.
The 13th-century carving of Bagpipes