Ten things to do in Whitby holiday cottages

Ten things to do in Whitby

Julie Smith 12 May 2021

You’ll never be short of things to do during a visit to Whitby on the Yorkshire Coast. This popular seaside town combines a bustling fishing harbour, classic amusement arcades, an abbey that featured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and characterful cobbled streets that are filled with charming independent shops.

Four-legged friends are also welcome throughout much of Whitby with dog-friendly beaches and an assortment of cafes, pubs and cottages where they can happily join you during a short break or holiday. To help you plan the perfect getaway to this charming seaside town, we have compiled ten of the best things to do in Whitby.

#01 Delve into the history of Whitby

Whitby is a coastal town with a rich history and an old town that’s full of beautiful period buildings and traditional fisherman’s cottages dotted along narrow cobbled streets. Fishing in Whitby dates back to Elizabethan times and you can still see lots of traditional wooden fishing boats and lobster pots in the beautiful historic harbour. 

One of Whitby’s most notable former residents is Captain James Cook who famously sailed to Australia in the 18th century. You can learn more about his life at the Captain Cook Museum, which is based in the 17th-century house where he once lived in the town.

Top things to do

  • Seek out the 15-foot whalebone arch which dates back to 1853 and frames a view of Whitby Abbey from its location on the town’s West Cliff.
  • Visit the Whitby Lifeboat Museum which is housed in a Victorian building that was once the town’s RNLI lifeboat station and still contains the actual boat used to save countless lives over the years, along with various medals and mementos.
  • Learn about some of Whitby’s ancient folklore on an evening ghost and Dracula walk around the town with Whitby Storyteller. The walk starts in the St Hilda’s graveyard near Whitby Abbey and isn’t for the fainthearted!

#02 Climb 199 steps to Whitby Abbey

Things to do in Whitby

One of Whitby’s most iconic images is the gothic Whitby Abbey, which sits imposingly at the top of a cliff and is reached by climbing 199 steps from the narrow cobbled streets of Whitby old town. The 199 steps were famously featured in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and the views when you reach Whitby Abbey are spectacular. You can spend time exploring the gorgeous abbey ruins, have a picnic with a view or let kids run around and let off steam in the dog-friendly grounds.

Top things to do:

  • Explore the fascinating on-site visitor centre which is hosted in a 17th-century mansion and features a rare, signed copy of Dracula.
  • Play hide and seek in the grounds - there are lots of places to crouch down and hide amongst the sprawling ruins.
  • Take a family-friendly explorer trail around Whitby Abbey; there are various special events throughout the year to coincide with school holidays.    

#03 Sup on some local Whitby ale (or gin)

Things to do in Whitby

Just a short stroll from Whitby Abbey you’ll find Whitby Brewery, where you can sample and stock up on a range of local craft beers. The ales have wonderful names like Abbey Blonde, Smuggler’s Gold and Whitby Whaler; you can take a tour of the brewery to discover how the beers are made, enjoy a freshly pulled pint in the beer garden and purchase bottles of your favourite in the shop. Also located near the abbey is the Whitby Distillery, home to handcrafted Whitby Gin, and there are numerous lovely pubs dotted around the town where you can enjoy a drink or two of your favourite tipple.  

Top Whitby pubs to visit:

  • The Golden Lion is a characterful and cosy Grade II listed pub that dates back to the 18th century and is known for its wooden tables decorated with old pennies.
  • The Duke of York is located at the bottom of the 199 steps and serves an extensive range of wines alongside Whitby Brewery ales. The stone walls of the bar are decorated with nostalgic pictures and historic Whitby fishing memorabilia.
  • The Ship Inn is a dog-friendly pub with wonderful views of the harbour. Watch the world go by and the boats come in as you enjoy your drink. 

#04 Tuck into fresh fish and seafood

Things to do in Whitby

There are plenty of places to tuck into the catch of the day, whether you fancy traditional fish and chips or something a little different. A number of kiosks on the harbour serve freshly prepared seafood including oysters in their shells and delicious lobster rolls. In the heart of Whitby, close to the 199 steps, you'll find Fortune’s Kippers, a traditional smokehouse that has been producing kippers in the same way since 1872.   

The best places to get fish and chips:

  • The Magpie Cafe - there’s often a queue outside this distinctive black and white building but the food is worth the wait. Alongside classic cod, you can get hake, woof, plaice and halibut along with seafood salads, lobster and Whitby crab.
  • Trenchers was named the UK’s best fish and chip restaurant in 2019 and serves freshly battered and fried cod and haddock in three different sizes to either eat in or takeaway.
  • Hadley’s is a family-run takeaway and restaurant that has been serving fresh and tasty fish and chips since 1937. The handsome restaurant is located in the heart of the town, and they even serve Whitby Gin to wash down your fish and chips in style.

#05 Take a boat trip out to sea

Whitby things to do

If you fancy taking to the waves yourself there are also a whole host of different Whitby boat trips available, ranging from a 30-minute jaunt to nearby Sandsend to a full day out at sea. Many of the shorter boat trips run throughout the day during peak season and there will usually be at least one vessel that you can hop aboard at short notice. Boats available to catch from the harbour include the Mary Ann Hepworth, a former lifeboat from the 1930s, and the distinctive yellow Summer Belle cruiser. Many of the boats are dog-friendly too so it’s a great activity to do with four-legged friends.

Top things to do:

  • See if you can catch your own supper on a Whitby fishing trip. Rods and tackle will be supplied with expert tuition provided by the experienced skipper of the boat.
  • Try and spot some spectacular marine life on a Whitby whale-watching cruise - these majestic creatures are regularly seen swimming in the North Sea off the coast of Whitby.
  • Join in with traditional shanties and learn about the life of Captain Cook on board the Bark Endeavour, a replica of the sea captain’s famous ship.

#06 Admire the view from the Cleveland Way

Whitby - Cleveland Way

The Cleveland Way National Trail follows the high cliffs of the Yorkshire Coast, with wonderful views to the towns, villages and beaches down below. You can follow this clifftop path in either direction from Whitby; a popular option includes a 7-mile walk to Robin Hood’s Bay, a pretty village that was once a haven for smugglers thanks to its maze of narrow streets and alleyways that seemingly tumble towards the sea.  A little bit further on from Robin Hood’s Bay are the dramatic cliffs of Ravenscar where you can enjoy far-reaching views and meet the resident population of seals who live on the cliffs below.  

Other Whitby walks:

  • Head into the glorious North York Moors countryside by following the path of the River Esk to nearby inland villages, such as Grosmont, Sleights and Ruswarp. You can hire pleasure boats at Ruswarp and kids will love taking a trip on the miniature steam railway here.
  • Walk along the cliffs to Sandsend, the nearest seaside resort to Whitby. The picturesque village is around 3 miles from Whitby, and you can call in for refreshments at a beachfront cafe before walking back along the sand.
  • Follow the route of The Cinder Track, a disused railway line that’s now a traffic-free trail between Whitby and Scarborough. There are lots of opportunities for short circular walks along the way - especially when you combine The Cinder Track with The Cleveland Way.

# 07 Relax at the beach

Whitby things to do

You can’t come to the Yorkshire Coast without spending at least some time at the beach and there are a couple of great sandy options in Whitby. Colourful beach huts adorn the main beach which stretches out for miles with deckchair and windbreak hire available. There are some dog restrictions on the main Whitby beach during the summer months but the smaller, sheltered Tate Hill Beach which lies in the Esk River Harbour is a dog-friendly beach all year long.

Top things to do:

  • The Yorkshire Coast cliffs date back to Jurassic times so keep your eyes peeled for fossils and precious Whitby Jet which can often be found on the beach. Whitby Jet is fossilised wood which is used in various jewellery pieces that can be purchased in the town.
  • The Blue Flag waters around Whitby are perfect for paddling in and you can also try a range of water sports here including surfing and stand-up paddleboarding.
  • Although the beaches at Whitby are mainly sand, there are also some rocky sections that are ideal for rockpooling. Just remember to walk carefully across any rocks and to put back anything that you find lurking in the water. 

#08 Catch an NYMR steam train to a pretty village

Things to do in Whitby

You can travel in style through the North York Moors countryside with a trip on a vintage NYMR steam train between Whitby and Pickering. The handsome steam trains chug their way over 24 miles of restored heritage tracks, and the period carriages and classic station master uniforms have come straight from a bygone age.

Things to see and do:

  • Stations on the route include Goathland, which featured as Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films, and Levisham, which will appear in an upcoming Mission Impossible film.
  • Goathland also appeared as the fictional village of Aidensfield in the popular ITV series Heartbeat. Wander around this picturesque place to see sheep grazing on the village green and the beautiful Mallyan Spout waterfall.
  • Special Pullman Dining Experiences mean you can enjoy a fabulous four-course meal or an elegant afternoon tea as the train winds its way through the heather-clad moorland.

#09 Enjoy a classic British seaside holiday

Things to do in Whitby

There’s nothing quite like a traditional UK seaside holiday, and there’s lots of family fun to be had on a short break or holiday to Whitby. Souvenir shops dotted around the town sell buckets and spades with an assortment of bats and balls so you can spend the day building sandcastles and playing on the beach. Classic sticks of rock and sweet shops are also in plentiful supply around Whitby, with local Trillo’s ice cream sold in a variety of places around town.  

Top things to do:

  • Whitby’s West Cliff is home to a variety of family-friendly activities including mini golf, an outdoor paddling pool and bumper cars. You can also catch the cliff lift from here directly to the beach below.
  • You’ll find a selection of amusement arcades dotted amongst the ice cream parlours and fish and chips shops on the vibrant Pier Road. Pleasure Island is a great option for kids, with classic 2p machines, arcade games, ten-pin bowling and pirate-themed adventure golf.
  • Pannett Park is a free-to-enter Whitby park that’s open all year round and features a maritime-themed play area that was designed by local children. There’s also a tranquil lily pond and a Jurassic garden with special fossil trails and a huge replica crocodile hidden amongst the plants.  

#10 Wander through a woodland tea garden

Things to do near Whitby

Just a couple of miles from Whitby is Falling Foss, a magical tea garden and waterfall that’s hidden amongst beautiful North York Moors woodland. Follow a family-friendly trail around the woods to seek out the tumbling 30-foot waterfall, paddle in the tranquil shallow waters of May Beck, then play a game of pooh sticks from the bridge above. The tea garden itself is in the heart of the forest, and you can enjoy a cuppa and homemade cake whilst soaking in the tranquil surroundings.

Other hidden gems near Whitby:

  • Hayburn Wyke is a secluded cove with a pretty waterfall that’s just a short drive from Whitby; it’s the perfect spot for a peaceful picnic if you fancy getting far from the madding crowd.
  • Mulgrave Woods is located close to the pretty village of Sandsend and you can enjoy a series of scenic trails through this vast estate with a selection of streams and winding footpaths. In the centre of the woods are the ruined remains of Mulgrave Castle, which are well worth seeking out.
  • Runswick Bay is one of the prettiest places around, with a sheltered bay that’s dog-friendly all year round and a collection of charming, red-roofed cottages that seemingly cling to the cliffs. Look out for the pop-up tea garden that appears here each summer.

Plan your getaway to Whitby

Whitby things to do

If you have been inspired to come to Whitby for a short break or holiday, you’ll find an array of gorgeous Yorkshire Coast cottages where you can rest your head after days spent exploring the area. Browse our range of dog-friendly cottages on the Yorkshire Coast to find perfect places to stay with pooches, and discover more lovely destinations to visit in the ultimate guide to the Yorkshire Coast.  


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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