North Yorkshire is home to the seaside town of Whitby, which can be found at the mouth of the River Esk on the North Sea.
During the Middle Ages, a fishing town was established in the area which over the centuries became home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the UK.
This idyllic former fishing town is also where a young James Cook received his training in seamanship.
Tourism in Whitby was first established during the Georgian era, and it flourished after the first train arrived in the town in 1839.
Today there are lots of things to do in Whitby for all ages including seasonal events such as the alternative music festival and the Whitby Goth weekend, so take a look at our list!
Things To Do In Whitby
1. 199 Steps
The Whitby steps are a flight of 199 stairs located between the Old Town and St Mary’s Church, with the steps first documented in the year 1340, however it is believed that they are even older.
This grade I listed structure was originally constructed out of wood, but that was changed to stone in the year 1774.
It is believed that those who wanted to worship in St. Mary’s Church had to demonstrate that they had sufficient Christian faith in order to climb the steps.
There are benches placed at intervals along the staircase and these were originally designed for pallbearers carrying coffins up the stairs to rest on while taking a break.
Visitors may find the hike up the steps a challenge but but you’re rewarded with stunning views at the top.
Address: Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 4DE
2. Whitby’s West Cliff Beach (Whitby Sands Beach)
This seaside resort beach in Whitby is a very popular destination that both locals and tourists enjoy going to.
Whitby’s West Cliff Beach is a blue flag, sandy beach, that offers donkey rides for the children during the warmer months.
Located north of Robin Hood’s Bay, the area has plenty of activities including bumper boats, arcades, trampolines, pitch and putt, and crazy golf.
There is also a shop selling souvenirs, buckets and spades, and ice creams, and a large west cliff car park located near the Whitby Leisure centre.
The Battery Parade, which is located at the end of the beach closest to the West pier, is home to a number of restaurants and traditional fish and chip shops, in addition to amusements.
During the Summer, Whitby beach is alive with families soaking up the sun and enjoying the amenities.
Address: Whitby’s West Cliff Beach, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 3EN.
3. Whitby Abbey
The original building of Whitby Abbey dates back to the seventh century and served as a Christian monastery until the eleventh century, when it was converted into a Benedictine abbey.
It was a centre of the medieval Northumbrian kingdom, and it was located on the East Cliff above Whitby looking out over the North Sea.
During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, which took place between 1536 and 1545 and was overseen by Henry VIII, the crown took possession of the abbey.
Sailors have continued to use the ruins of the abbey, which are located at the headland, as a landmark ever since that time.
Since the twentieth century, the substantial ruins of the church have been designated as Grade I listed buildings and are now under the care of English Heritage.
Visitors can walk around the grounds and enter Whitby Abbey, and there is an interactive visitor centre where guests can discover all about this important archaeological site.
Address: Whitby Abbey, Abbey Ln, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 4JT
4. Whitby Harbour
Whitby Harbour is a beautiful and historic place on the east coast of England.
This quaint harbour has been used for centuries as a fishing port and today it is still an important part of the town’s economy.
Visitors to Whitby can enjoy stunning views of the harbour from the many cafes, restaurants and pubs located around its edges.
There are also a number of shops selling local produce, souvenirs and gifts.
The harbour is home to a number of boats including fishing boats, pleasure boats and yachts.
Visitors can take a walk around the harbour or take a boat trip out to sea.
There are also a number of trails and walks which lead from the harbour into the surrounding countryside.
Address: Whitby Harbour, Pier Rd, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 3PU
5. Whitby Museum
Whitby Museum is a great place to visit if you want to learn about the history of the area and see some amazing exhibits.
The museum is located in the heart of Whitby and visitors can learn about the history of the town, see some of the old buildings that used to be here.
There are plenty of artefacts on display that have been found in the North Yorkshire coast area.
There is also a gift shop, so you can buy souvenirs to remember your visit.
Address: Whitby Museum, Pannett Park, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO21 1RE
6. North York Moors National Park Whitby
The North York Moors National Park is a stunningly beautiful area of Yorkshire, only a short drive from Whitby.
Located in the north east part of the county, it covers an impressive 554 square miles and includes one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the United Kingdom.
The park is home to a diverse and fascinating range of wildlife from wild red deer roaming across the hills to sparrow hawks perched on high branches looking for prey, this area provides some truly amazing experiences for nature lovers, birdwatchers and hikers alike.
Thanks to its incredible natural beauty, North York Moors is a popular tourist destination with over 4 million people visiting each year.
With quaint villages scattered throughout it has something for everyone; from art galleries and museums to shops selling local produce or antiques.
There are plenty of walking trails with varying levels of difficulty so no matter if you’re a novice or experienced hiker there will be something suitable for you with stunning views along the way!
Address: Whitby, North Yorkshire
7. Falling Foss Tea Garden and Waterfall
Falling Foss Tea Garden is a stunning spot nestled in the North York Moors National Park about 6 miles south of Whitby.
This picturesque area is perfect for a picnic lunch and offers visitors plenty of activities to keep them busy in the outdoors.
The tea garden is perched on the top of the Falling Foss Waterfall and visitors can hear the thundering sound of the waterfall cascading down into beautiful woodland below.
The tranquil setting creates an unforgettable experience, with lush green trees, wildflowers and birdsong all around.
In addition to this tranquil setting, the tea garden also features a small wooden play area for children so they can let their imaginations run wild while mum and dad relax.
There’s also an easy-to-access shallow river for paddling and exploring, providing plenty of entertainment for everyone.
Although it’s not allowed to picnic inside the tea garden itself but there are around 6 picnic benches just before the cottage where you can sit with your food and enjoy views over the garden.
Visitors can also find plenty of trails nearby which lead past awe-inspiring landscapes or down into hidden valleys, all while being surrounded by breath-taking views.
Address: Falling Foss Tea Garden and Waterfall, Midge Hall, Whitby YO22 5JD
8. Museum of Victorian Science
The Museum of Victorian Science has become a popular destination for people looking to learn more about the incredible advances made in science during the Victorian period.
This museum is jam-packed with fascinating items from this era and offers visitors an interactive experience, leaving them feeling inspired and educated about the history of science.
Visitors can learn about some of the most notable scientific discoveries made during this time.
Such as Jacob’s Ladder, a device used to create static electricity; The Telegraph Machine, which used electrical signals to communicate long-distance and The Steam Engine, which revolutionized transportation and industry.
Guests get a guided tour around the museum where they can watch live demonstrations and get up close with some of these early scientific inventions.
The museum also features an interactive ‘Dr Frankenstein’s Laboratory’, complete with lightning bolts, thundering sounds and sparks.
Here, visitors are able to explore the mysteries of electricity by learning how an electrostatic generator works, discovering x-rays and uncovering the secrets behind electrons.
In addition to its impressive collection of early scientific artefacts, the Museum houses hundreds of unique items related to astronomy including telescopes, astrolabes, sextants and other tools.
Address: Woodberry, Glaisdale, Whitby YO21 2QL
9. Whitby Lighthouse
Whitby Lighthouse is a stunning sight to behold on the shores of the North Yorkshire Coast, two miles away from Whitby town centre.
Situated on Ling Hill, just beyond Saltwick Bay, it’s a beacon that has welcomed sailors and warned them of danger since 1858 and continues to do so.
The octagonal brick tower stands two stories tall and includes a unique entrance staircase with an arched roof.
In order to ensure that vessels received accurate warnings from Whitby Lighthouse there have been several changes made over the years including new lenses being added which have allowed for brighter beams of light.
In addition, more up-to-date fog signal equipment has been put into use such as an electronic foghorn system consisting of five speakers that blast out a low frequency sound every fifteen seconds when visibility is low.
Today’s modern beacon also uses solar power instead of electric energy; this not only helps reduce electricity costs but also contributes towards keeping our environment clean and healthy.
The beautiful sight of this beacon can be seen from miles away and serves as a reminder of how far we have come in terms of navigational technology over the past century or so.
Address: Whitby Lighthouse, Whitby, North Yorkshire
10. Captain Cook Memorial Museum Whitby
The Captain Cook Memorial Museum is a museum dedicated to the life and voyages of the famous explorer Captain James Cook.
Located in the 17th-century house where Cook served his seaman’s apprenticeship, this museum provides insight into the iconic figure and his effect on world history.
This incredible museum features permanent galleries as well as special exhibitions that bring new exhibits from major collections to Whitby every season.
These exhibitions offer visitors glimpses into the journey and success of one of the most renowned navigators in human history.
Inside, visitors can explore four floors (ground plus three), with a lift available for those who need assistance.
The permanent galleries provide an intimate look at this legendary figure and allow visitors to discover interesting facts they might never find elsewhere.
The items on display include maps and documents from some of Cook’s most famous voyages such as his first exploration around Australia and New Zealand and his travels to the Pacific Islands.
In addition, there are artefacts from Captain Cook’s personal possessions, including medals awarded for heroism at sea, charts he used onboard his ship during his travels, tools used by him, paintings depicting moments from his expeditions, and more.
Address: Captain Cook Museum, Grape Ln, Whitby YO22 4BA
11. The Whalebone Arch
The Whale Bone Arch in Whitby is an iconic landmark that stands as a reminder of the town’s history of whaling.
It is the third arch to stand in this spot, and each one has come from a different source.
The original arch was said to have been made of smaller bones from multiple whales sometime during the 19th century.
However, by 1963, it was in need of replacement and so 20-foot jaw bones from a 113-ton Fin whale killed by a Norwegian whaling ship were used instead.
These bones formed an impressive archway that served as a gateway into Whitby for many years.
Unfortunately, by the 1990s, the second arch was quite weathered and at risk of crumbling down altogether.
To prevent this from happening, it was taken down in 2003 and replaced with the present-day Whale Bone Arch which came from a Bowhead whale killed legally by native Alaskan Inuits.
The bone structure is remarkably intricate with its interlocking parts held together with wooden pegs rather than any form of metal or glue.
The individual pieces were all carefully carved to join perfectly without any compromise on strength or stability; it’s simply stunning engineering!
The Whale Bone Arch has become a popular tourist attraction as well as an important symbol for Whitby.
Every year thousands of visitors flock to take pictures standing under the archway before exploring more of what Whitby has to offer.
Address: North Terrace, Whitby YO21 3HA
12. St Mary’s Church
The Church of Saint Mary is a historic Anglican parish church.
Founded around 1110AD, this Norman building has been standing for over 900 years and boasts a range of architectural and cultural features that make it an important landmark in the region.
The church is a Grade I listed building and stands proudly atop the town’s east cliff, close to the ruins of Whitby Abbey.
Most notably, its tower and transepts date from the 12th and 13th centuries respectively.
St Mary’s has an interesting blend of styles: from its squared tower walls punctuated with flat buttresses contrasting against its beautiful 16th century embattled parapet – truly unique features which give it its distinctive appearance.
Inside St Mary’s there are several features such as its stained glass windows depicting religious scenes as well as numerous monuments displaying coats of arms and armoured figures that hark back to medieval times.
St Mary’s church is one of the most heavily visited churches in the North East and is normally open to visitors during the day.
Address: St Mary’s Church, Abbey Plain, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 4JR
13. Robin Hood’s Bay
Located 6 miles south of Whitby, Robin Hoods Bay is a fishing village situated on the Yorkshire Coast.
There’s plenty to do and explore here, and it has some great places to grab a bite to eat or stop for a leisurely drink.
The village has historic museums and churches, and an Old Coastguard Station that sits right on the edge of Robin Hoods Bay by the harbour.
Visitors can see fascinating displays, lots of history and enjoy the hands-on models.
There’s also a fantastic stretch of sand to explore when its low tide, and if you enjoy tales of the supernatural then the Robin Hood’s Bay Ghost Walk shouldn’t be missed.
Address: Robin Hoods Bay, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 4RD
14. Whitby Coastal Cruises
Whitby Coastal Cruises run short trips around the Bay where visitors can take a 20 minute boat ride along the coast towards Sandsend.
The boat trips run every day with the yellow boats leaving from Whitby Harbour.
The Summer Queen and Esk Belle III are the boats that go out to sea, while Dash II gives visitors river tours on the Esk.
Coastal Cruises also run some special trips to see some interesting wildlife and to enjoy the dramatic sunsets of the area from the sea.
Address: The Brewery Steps Lower Harbour, Whitby, YO21 3PR
When can you see whales in Whitby?
June to October is the time of year for Whitby whale watching.
But the best months are August and September when Minke whales are the most likely to be seen.
Where is a good place to shop for Whitby jet?
Church Street has a good shop selling Whitby Jet Jewellery, called the Whitby Jet store.
Whitby Jet Jewellery is made from Whitby Jet that is a semi precious gemstone.
Does the North York Moors railway go to Whitby?
The railway runs from the town of Pickering to Whitby on the Yorkshire coast with the route running past some stunning scenery.
The journey takes nearly 2 hours and covers 23 miles.
Should you visit Whitby in Winter?
Although Summer is definitely the most popular season to visit Whitby, visiting Whitby in Winter is also good and if you are in luck you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
This beautiful seaside town is one of North Yorkshire’s most popular tourist destinations.
Where does Whitby Goth Weekend take place?
Goth visitors who come to Whitby enjoy gathering at Whitby Abbey.
This is because of the powerful description that Bram Stoker gave the Abbey in Dracula.
Is Pannett Art Gallery in Whitby worth a visit?
Great for art lovers Pannett Art Gallery is located in the charming grounds of Pannett Park in the centre of Whitby town.
There is a very good permanent display of 19th and 20th Century paintings, and exhibitions that are temporary throughout the year.