Among the towns lying in or adjacent to the Forest are Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Fordingbridge, Ringwood, Beaulieu and Lymington. It is bounded to the west by Bournemouth and to the east by the city of Southampton.
A proposal to create the New Forest National Park has been the subject of an inquiry, the result of which is due by the end of 2003.
It is also the habitat of the famous New Forest ponies and contains a profusion of other rare wildlife, including the New Forest cicada, the only cicada native to Great Britain. Several species of sundew may be found there. The habitat of many unusual ant species including the narrow-headed ant, formica exsecta, recorded there by Horace Donisthorpe.