Beaulieu and National Motor Museum, New Forest review for families
In a nutshell
A charming multi-attraction site in the New Forest, Hampshire, with something for all ages, not just the kids or petrol heads
What we tested
- Fun for kids
4.5A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.
- Fun for parents
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Worth the money
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Family friendliness
5.0A star rating of 5.0 out of 5.
- Different and unique, amazing woodland playground, multiple attractions included, excellent monorail
- Long walk for children to the house/Abbey if you miss the bus
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COVID-19 safety update
There may be additional safety rules or pre-booking requirements. Please check the Beaulieu website before travelling or booking.
Former Glamour UK beauty editor Philippa is a parenting, beauty and lifestyle journalist. She visited the museum with her husband Tim and 2 children – Bertie, 7 and Poppy, 3 – on a sunny Saturday during father’s day weekend. Their visit happened to be when Beaulieu’s Hot Rod and Custom Show was on, which meant there were more visitors than usual to the attraction. However, Philippa says this didn’t impact negatively on their visit, "it actually enhanced it because of the fun, friendly atmosphere".
What age is Beaulieu best for?
Best for: Children aged 6+, and adults interested in all things cars, buses and motorbikes
Still good fun for: Children aged 2-5. My daughter (aged 3.5) absolutely loved looking at all the shiny cars and riding on the monorail and the double decker bus. She couldn’t get enough of the amazing woodland playground, Little Beaulieu, either.
Avoid if: You’re an adrenalin junkie looking for a day out with lots of rides – Alton Towers this is not! Also, babies who can’t yet walk won't get much out of it.
How much does it cost in 2022?
Tickets include access to:
- National Motor Museum
- Palace House
- Grounds and Gardens
- Little Beaulieu
- Beaulieu Abbey
- On Screen Cars
- World of Top Gear
- Secret Army Exhibition
- Art Russe at the Clock House
Adult tickets are £26 (or £23 in advance), children 5 – 16 are £15 (£12), or family tickets (2 adults + up to 3 children or 1 adult + up to 4 children) £69 (£59 in advance). Under 5s go free.
Adult disabled visitors are £17 (£15 in advance) and child disabled visitors £10.50 (£8.40). Free entry for a disabled visitor’s personal assistant.
Are there discounts or cheap tickets available for Beaulieu?
- Booking in advance is cheaper.
- Choose the gift aid option (if you’re a UK tax payer) when you book and receive an annual pass to the National Motor Museum (only). If not eligible for gift aid, choose ‘admission with donation’ at the checkout and you’ll still receive an annual pass.
- Show membership or proof of the following, for discounted or complimentary entry schemes: Historic House Association, Blue Peter Badge, Brooklands Museum Members, the British Motorcycle Charitable Trust, and the Blue Light Card. These tickets cannot be pre-booked.
- You can’t use Tesco Clubcard vouchers to buy tickets.
- Use Caravan & Motorhome Club membership.
- Keep an eye out for offers on sites like Kidspass and Picniq before you book.
- Look out for accommodation and ticket offers on websites such as Holiday Extras if you’re thinking of booking a mini stay in the area.
Is Beaulieu good value?
We thought the family ticket price (£69/£59) was excellent value if you book in advance. Also, the fact that under 5s go free was huge for us as our 3-year-old enjoyed herself just as much as our 7-year-old did. We expected under 3s – maximum - to go free so those extra 2 years are impressive, considering there is a lot for a 3 or 4-year-old to do there.
Plus, if you’re a UK tax payer you can Gift Aid your ticket purchase to receive an annual pass to the National Motor Museum.
Any extra charges once I’m there?
Things like the monorail and a ride on the double decker bus are all included in the entry price which we were thankful for as sometimes you’re charged extra to go on rides like these at other attractions.
The only extra thing we paid for, aside from food, was a go on the Test Track Challenge, £1 per child, where they could steer their own mini Top Gear car around a track. Over half of the steering wheels weren’t working when we visited but the staff were incredibly helpful and we eventually got two up and running.
They had long turns too. Each child had a good 5-10 minutes steering their car around and around. My son said this was one of his highlights of the day so it was money well spent.
How long will we spend at Beaulieu?
We arrived at 10:30am and the children were exhausted and ready to go home by around 2pm. We managed to see everything there but by the time we’d reached Palace House, the kids had mentally checked out and didn’t feel up for walking around the whole thing (even though it’s quite small).
So, if the Palace is top of your list of things to visit and you’re there with young kids, make sure you do it first! Particularly because it’s the thing that’s furthest away from the main entrance.
Looking for more to do close by? Take a look at our roundup of the best family days out in the New Forest.
What’s it like for families?
It’s a great day out for all ages so Beaulieu is the ultimate family day out. We saw many varied age groups enjoying a day out together.
Most of the activities were easy for all the family to enjoy, whatever their age, although of course things like Little Beaulieu (the woodland playground) have been created specifically for children.
On arrival you’re given a fool-proof map and because Beaulieu isn’t overly large, the map is easy to navigate and everything is pretty close to each other. The only thing that was a bit of a walk away for little legs were the Abbey and Palace House. However, there is an old-fashioned double decker bus you can catch which goes every fifteen minutes from just outside the restaurant. So, if you’re organised, you can get there in style.
Weather-wise, you wouldn’t want it to be raining heavily all day. A lot of the attractions (Little Beaulieu, the mini Top Gear track and a walk around the beautiful gardens) are outdoors. However, things like the museum, World of Top Gear and the monorail are all covered and could easily be enjoyed come rain or shine!
In all honesty though, a large portion of our children’s enjoyment came from Little Beaulieu and even though it is covered by trees, a very rainy day would be sure to dampen a few spirits – especially those of the parents watching from the sidelines!
What shouldn’t be missed at Beaulieu?
Highlights for us were:
- The monorail. It was the first thing we did and because it takes you over most of the park and even through and inside the National Motor Museum, it gave us a great insight into what the day ahead would entail. The children absolutely loved riding through the museum and having a bird’s eye view of all the vehicles and because we went straight there from the entrance, we managed to dodge long queues.
- The old-fashioned double decker bus. We caught it from outside Brabazon (the on-site restaurant) and enjoyed a little pootle around the grounds of Beaulieu. All in all, it’s probably only a 10-15 minute activity, but my daughter had never been on a bus before and couldn’t believe her luck that we got an upstairs, open-roof seat.
- Little Beaulieu which is a wonderful woodland play area and huge treehouse, with lots of little avenues and tunnels to go through and array of activities including a garage with a tiny old fashioned car that children can sit in and pretend to fill up with petrol. There’s also an under 5s play area too which is brilliant. A must-mention are the cute little notices dotted around the playground that give it that extra bit of charm - one said “Never trust ladders....they’re always up to something” which my son found hilarious.
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Look out for the car itself at the National Motor Museum. Just as shiny and exciting in the flesh as my fellow aged 35+ adults dreamed it would be!
What else to see at Beaulieu
We really enjoyed World of Top Gear. There is a 6 minute screening of Top Gear’s ‘best bits’ which is great for all ages and includes a lot of clips of cars crashing which both my children found hilarious. If it had been any longer than six minutes they might have got bored so this was the perfect length.
You can then go and sit on the Top Gear sofa with life size cut outs of the current presenters behind you and have your photo taken. Next, you’re led into the Top Gear showcase area where there is a large handful of some of the real vehicles used in the TV show - scuffs, dents and all!
As well as the National Motor Museum where there are countless old and new vehicles to get up close to (my husband and I particularly loved Bond in Motion, the James Bond section!), make sure you check out ‘On Screen Cars’, a much smaller showcase (also covered) which includes vehicles like the Flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter – much to my son’s delight – the Only Fools and Horses three-wheeler and Mr Bean’s green Mini!
The Abbey was beautiful – it wasn’t necessarily top of our children’s priority list. However they quite liked visiting somewhere a little different after the excitement of all the cars and the playground and we didn’t walk around for long. You can hear a recording of the monks singing as you walk around so it’s quite atmospheric. Worth doing for a bit of quiet time! My husband and I both said it made us feel like we were on the set of a Harry Potter film.
Does Beaulieu cater well to children of all ages?
It definitely does – between the play area for younger children, the car museums for the older ones and the monorail for all ages, this really is the place to go to keep everyone happy!
What to bring to Beaulieu:
- A picnic to save money and make the most of sunny weather (hopefully) and soak up the atmosphere while you eat outside.
- A pushchair or sling if you have very small children/new walkers, however if your child is aged 3+ don’t bother. We were very relieved not to have our buggy as the museums can get quite crowded. We could go up and down steps as and when we wanted to, as well as board the bus and monorail without worrying about where we were going to leave the buggy and pick it up afterwards. My 3-year-old has reached an age where she can walk a bit further now, but she still gets quite tired so daddy’s shoulders came in handy at certain points throughout the day! And it was never too long before she’d spot something else to go and see so any shoulder ‘stints’ didn’t last longer than 5 minutes!
- Back up snacks and water for the kids. There is only one main place to eat and a small kiosk at Little Beaulieu with a few snacks/drinks. So if you find yourself with hungry kids half-way to the Palace or Abbey, you’ll have to walk back and get something as there isn’t anywhere on the way.
- Comfy shoes and a rain coat just in case!
- A potty for small children if they’re new to potty training or for kids who struggle to hold it in! The loos there aren’t very spread around.
What to watch out for
The old fashioned double decker bus is well worth it but it’s small so get to the bus stop in good time to avoid disappointment. And be warned - there is no queuing system. We got there first and waited alone for 10 minutes which we thought would guarantee us a seat.
However, by the time the bus arrived 5 minutes later, there was a large crowd of people waiting to get on and we certainly were not given the option to board first, despite waiting the longest. With 2 impatient kids who had been talking about boarding this bus all day, it was a bit stressful to think we might not fit on after waiting the full 15 minutes, even though we had been there since the bus before had left!
What are the food and drink facilities like at Beaulieu?
If you’ve forgotten your picnic, there’s Brabazon, the on-site restaurant and snacks café. They offer a kids’ menu for hot food, as well as kids’ lunchboxes for £5.50.
Lunch for the adults was delicious but there is mostly hot food available which on a hot day isn’t overly welcome. Plus, most dishes cost around £10 which, when you’re looking for something light and not too expensive, isn’t great value for money.
Cheaper options were scarce but they included a jacket potato with a choice of three toppings for £7.25, home made soup for £5.50 or just two salads for around the £7 mark. Our advice – bring a picnic, it’s cheaper and probably more suitable if you’re there for a summer’s day out.
What are the toilets like?
Clean and accessible however there aren’t that many spread around the site. From what we could see, there were just the main toilets which were outside the restaurant, situated right in the centre of Beaulieu’s ‘action’, and then there were a few at Little Beaulieu. They could have done with a lot more there, especially as this is an activity aimed at young kids. After all, when they’ve gotta go, they’ve gotta go!
I had to queue for one of the 3 toilets at Little Beaulieu with a very fidgety 3-year-old who doesn’t quite understand the concept of telling me well in advance when she needs to go to the toilet.
How well does Beaulieu cater for disabled visitors?
- There are pathways between all attractions at Beaulieu but note that a lot of the events held there are on grass and also the garden and riverside walks can be restricted due to gravel or hoggin.
- The National Motor Museum is on three levels but there are ample ramps and lifts. Wheelchair users cannot access the upper floor of the Palace due to the historic nature of the property. However, it is wheelchair accessible downstairs.
- Wheelchairs/electric scooters are available to book in advance for free at Beaulieu – just call 01590 614646 between 10am-5pm to do this.
- Full details about accessibility can be found on the website.
Is it pushchair friendly?
Pushchairs are not allowed in the Palace at all but you can leave it outside safely.
I would advise against taking your pushchair into the National Motor Museum too – trust me, you’ll enjoy it more. It gets quite crowded in there as that’s the main ‘event’ and there are lots of twists and turns inside so you might find it easier to either carry your child around or allow them to walk. I felt quite relieved that we didn’t bring ours.
How to get the kids excited before you go
I found it tricky to explain to the children where we were going before we set off – it’s not a farm, it’s not really a park and if I’d said the word ‘museum’ I probably would have got death stares. So, I showed them a few pictures from the website and on the Beaulieu hashtag on Instagram too and as soon as they saw a picture of the monorail they were sold. They also love spotting ‘cool cars’ when we’re out and about anywhere so telling them we were going to see lots of those helped them get excited too.
Opening dates and times
Beaulieu’s open every day of the year except for Christmas day. Between 1st January and 27th May it’s open from 10am – 5pm, then 10am – 6pm from the end of May until mid-September and from mid-September onwards it’s open from 10am-5pm again.
Is Beaulieu worth a long car journey?
Because of the uniqueness of it I would say it was definitely worth getting in the car and travelling a few hours for. I don’t know anywhere else nearby that has such a unique set up or theme so we were very happy that we made the trip from Surrey.
We weren’t there for the full day but once we were home that was pretty much a full day used and the kids didn’t need to be tired out doing anything else after that. If you’re local to Beaulieu I’d advise you to visit only occasionally to avoid getting bored – perhaps once a year to maintain the charm. Beaulieu is perfect when you’re looking for an attraction that’s a bit different but going, say, once a month would probably cause the novelty to wear off quite quickly.
How to get there
Beaulieu is in the heart of the New Forest National Park, not far from Southampton, Bournemouth, Winchester, Salisbury and Portsmouth.
- The postcode is SO42 7ZN which took us straight there without any hitches.
- Junction 2 off the M27, follow the brown tourist signs and go through the visitor entrance.
- What3Words: unpacked.brambles.mats.
- Train: London to Weymouth train stops at Brockenhurst which is the closest station. There are taxi ranks just outside the station and the fare will cost around £20.
- Ferry: Take the Hythe Ferryacross Southampton Water to Hythe, or the Isle of Wight ferry to Lymington and take a bus to Beaulieu.
- The New Forest Tour’s Green Route links Beaulieu with Hythe Ferry (for Southampton), Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst (rail station) and Lymington. Tickets are valid all day on all routes and you can hop on and off wherever you like.
Is there free parking at Beaulieu?
The car park is completely free and caters for 1000 cars. We managed to park very near to the entrance even though there was an event on that day and we didn’t get there as soon as it opened. There are also facilities to charge electric cars too.
Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near Beaulieu?
There’s a wide range of places to stay that are close to Beaulieu. If you’re looking to add a bit of luxury to your stay, The Montagu Arms could be the perfect place to stay. If self-catering is more your thing, have a look at Wayside Cottage. Holiday Extras has some great offers if you decide to combine your visit to Beaulieu with a trip to Paulton Park (home to Peppa Pig World).
Take a look at our pick of the best family hotels in the New Forest.
Nearby attractions for a longer day out
If you’re planning on staying in the area for a longer break, there’s plenty to see in and around the New Forest National Park. For a great day out with animals, Marwell Zoo is perfect. If you’ve got young children who can’t get enough of Peppa Pig, a trip to Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World is a must. National Trust members have a choice of several properties within about an hour of Beaulieu which includes Hinton Ampner and Mottisfont.
Made For Mums verdict
We absolutely loved our day at Beaulieu, mainly because we hadn’t been anywhere like it before. We loved that it wasn’t just a day out for the kids and that my husband and I could take enjoyment from it too.
For example, World of Top Gear and Bond in Motion at the National Motor Museum. The theme of those elements obviously went a little over the kids’ heads having never watched a James Bond film or Top Gear. But that’s not to say they didn’t enjoy looking at the ‘cool cars’ and experiencing a new place with so much to look at. And what’s not to love about seeing a load of crushed, crashed cars from a TV show, whether you’ve seen it or not?
The monorail was a real highlight and a great way to start off our day and get a feel for what Beaulieu had to offer. The only queue we stood in all day was for the toilet at Little Beaulieu. The staff were all so friendly and welcoming and the ‘vibe’ of the day was joyful and full of family fun. Suffice to say – Beaulieu: we will be back!
Visit the Beaulieu website here.
See more reviews of Beaulieu on Tripadvisor.