Things to Do in Whitby: The Best Attractions and Activities

3 months ago   •   13 min read

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Things to Do in Whitby

Whitby is a quintessential seaside town on the North Yorkshire coast. It offers a charming blend of heritage and natural beauty.

Renowned for its maritime history and Gothic allure, visitors can explore a breadth of attractions that tell the story of this picturesque area. From the iconic ruins of Whitby Abbey perched atop the East Cliff to the bustling harbour below, the town provides a diverse range of activities catering to varied interests.

The town's association with legendary explorer Captain James Cook and its connection to the famous Bram Stoker novel, "Dracula," weave a rich tapestry of cultural significance.

Leisure seekers can wander along the cobbled streets, discover hidden alleys lined with independent shops, or relax at the sandy beach. For those intrigued by Whitby's past, various museums and historic sites offer insight into the town's intriguing narrative.

Engaging activities await families and individuals alike, from the heritage railway experience that chuffs through the scenic countryside to the fresh seafood served at local establishments. Whitby's calendar is punctuated by festivals and events that showcase its unique character and traditions. Whether seeking a tranquil retreat or an educational journey, Whitby invites exploration and enjoyment in equal measure.


Exploring Whitby's Rich History

Whitby is a town steeped in heritage, offering a wealth of historic sites that captivate those interested in Britain's maritime past.

Whitby Abbey, perched atop the East Cliff, is a defining feature of the town's skyline. Founded in the 7th century, the Abbey's ruins are a testament to centuries of religious significance, withstanding Viking raids and the dissolution of the monasteries. It also served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, adding a layer of gothic allure to Whitby's history.

Descending from the Abbey, the 199 Steps provide a tangible link to the past. These steps, dating back to at least the 14th century, offer a pathway down to the old town. Visitors frequently climb these for panoramic views and a moment of reflection on the town's history.

At the base, St Mary’s Church welcomes those interested in ecclesiastical history, with parts of its structure originating in the Norman era.

In the heart of Whitby, one finds the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, located in the explorer's former residence. This museum presents a comprehensive look at Captain Cook's voyages, emphasising Whitby's connections to global exploration.

The town’s Whitby Museum also harbours a trove of artefacts that narrate the town's story, from jet jewellery—a locally sourced gemstone—to fossils and maritime relics.

Historic Landmarks Significance
Whitby Abbey A historic religious site and Dracula's inspiration.
199 Steps A historic ascent providing access to Whitby's heritage.
St Mary’s Church A church showcasing Norman era architecture.
Captain Cook Museum A museum dedicated to Whitby's famous maritime explorer.

These landmarks collectively shape a journey through Whitby's rich history, leaving visitors with a deeper understanding of the town's importance in Britain's narrative.


Family-Friendly Activities in Whitby

Whitby is a treasure trove of activities for families to enjoy. From its stunning Abbey to the sandy beaches, there's no shortage of adventures for all ages.

Whitby Abbey stands majestically as a timeless fortress and offers an interactive experience that captivates children's imagination. They can explore the ancient ruins and learn about the Abbey's significant history through stories and artefacts.

A trip to Pannett Park ensures a day full of enjoyment amid lush green spaces. It's ideal for a family picnic, and kids can run around the playground. In addition, Pannett Park often hosts events at the Whitby Pavilion, located within its grounds, ranging from live performances to cinema screenings that cater to families.

The North York Moors National Park brings nature to life for all family members, with countless walking trails and the opportunity to spot local wildlife. Families can immerse themselves in the beauty of the moorlands and enjoy the scenic surroundings.

  • Beach Fun: Whitby's beaches are perfect for young and old alike. Sandsend Beach is particularly popular for building sandcastles, paddling, and basking in the coastal sun.
  • Crab Fishing: Engage in the local favourite activity of crab fishing. Equipment is simple – a line, a bucket and bait, with the harbour providing the perfect backdrop for this cherished pastime.

Each location in Whitby is equipped with facilities that cater to the needs of families, making each visit both pleasurable and stress-free. Whether it's immersion in history or basking in natural beauty, Whitby's array of family-friendly activities is sure to create lasting memories.


Scenic Views and Natural Beauty

Whitby offers a rich tapestry of scenic views and natural beauty that captivates visitors. From stunning coastal vistas to the lush expanse of the North York Moors, there's no shortage of breathtaking sights to take in.

Stroll Along the Harbour and Beaches

Whitby's harbour presents a charming vista of bobbing boats and historical buildings, leading to a lighthouse that offers panoramic views of the ocean. The adjacent beaches, such as Sandsend, provide a tranquil spot for a seaside walk with the North Yorkshire coast stretching out into the horizon.

Discover North Yorkshire Moors

The North York Moors National Park, with its rolling heather-clad landscapes, lies a short journey from Whitby. It showcases the area's natural beauty with opportunities for scenic jogs and observing wildlife, perhaps even catching sight of a waterfall near Goathland.

Coastal Walks and Pleasure Boats

Those looking to experience Whitby's coastal splendour can embark on coastal walks along the cliffs or enjoy a tour with Whitby Coastal Cruises. The West Cliff offers expansive sea views, and pleasure boat trips grant a unique perspective on the rugged charm of the coastline.

Fossil Hunting Adventures

A fossil hunting trip to the beaches near Ravenscar can reward visitors with geological treasures from ancient seas. This is an ideal opportunity to explore the area's rich prehistoric landscape whilst combing through the beach for hidden fossils.


Dining Experiences and Local Cuisine

Whitby, with its charming coastal allure, offers visitors a delightful array of dining experiences that cater to a variety of palates. The town is particularly renowned for its fish and chips, a quintessential British dish.

Many establishments in Whitby make bold claims about serving the best fish and chips, and rightfully so, with some having perfected the dish over decades.

Fish and Chips

Whitby's fish and chips are about freshness and quality, often featuring locally-caught fish fried to golden perfection. Hadley's Fish Restaurant has been a local institution since 1937, setting the standard for the dish at a reasonable price.

Seafood Specialties

Beyond traditional fish and chips, Whitby's restaurants offer an eclectic seafood selection, reflecting the town's rich maritime heritage. Italian and contemporary British restaurants feature menu items that emphasize fresh, locally-sourced seafood.

Local Yorkshire Fare

Visitors should not miss out on savouring authentic Yorkshire ales, which perfectly complement the region's hearty cuisine.

Traditional pubs and eateries around Whitby proudly serve a fine selection of these ales, contributing to the authentic dining experience.

Notable Eatery Cuisine Speciality
Hadley's Fish Restaurant British Fish and Chips
Cosa Nostra Italian Seafood Pasta and Pizza
Botham's Café Lemon Buns and Afternoon Tea

Notably, the town's dining landscape includes cosy cafés tucked along cobbled streets. These offer a range of options from full breakfasts to afternoon teas, often accompanied by homemade bread and pastries.


Whitby's Shopping and Jet Jewellery

Image Source: whatiswhitbyjet.com

Whitby, a quaint seaside town on the Yorkshire coast, presents a unique shopping experience, especially noted for its authentic Whitby Jet jewellery. Whitby Jet, a gemstone with a deep lustre that has been fashioned into adornments since the Victorian era, makes a distinctive and locally-sourced keepsake.

Where to shop:

  • Old Town: A treasure trove of independent shops offering an array of Whitby Jet products.
  • Church Street: Home to several boutiques, including the established W Hamond, recognised as the original Whitby Jet Shop and historic manufacturer since 1860.
  • Sandgate: Picturesque shopping street hosting family jewellers like Robert & Victoria, renowned for handcrafted Whitby Jet jewellery.

Authenticity Matters: Shoppers should seek reputable retailers, like Araucaria on Church Street, to ensure the authenticity of their Whitby Jet jewellery. Each piece reflects the heritage of a fossilised resin sourced from the Jurassic period.

Shopping Highlights:

  • Whitby Jet Store: Offers contemporary designs, capturing the essence of Whitby’s heritage.
  • The Whitby Guide: Advises on where to buy genuine Whitby Jet, ensuring visitors procure the finest quality.
  • Handmade Creations: Numerous shops offer bespoke pieces, providing personalised gifts that encapsulate Whitby's essence.

Whitby’s shopping experience is as much about the journey of discovery as it is about the purchase. Visitors can meander through cobbled streets, exploring small galleries, gift shops, and artisanal boutiques that convey the town's charming maritime history through locally-crafted merchandise.


Cultural Attractions and Exhibitions

Whitby is a coastal town with rich heritage. It offers a variety of cultural attractions, from historical sites to art exhibitions.

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum is a site of significant interest. It is housed in the 17th-century residence where a young James Cook lodged as an apprentice. The museum's collections showcase artefacts related to Cook's voyages, providing insights into the age of exploration. The museum also hosts regular art exhibitions, fuelling a dynamic engagement with culture and history.

Whitby Abbey, managed by English Heritage, stands as a stunning 13th-century ruin with a palpable sense of history. It not only features Gothic architecture but also holds events that bring the past to life. The Abbey's presence in literature is cemented by its connection to Bram Stoker's Dracula, adding a layer of literary significance.

Whitby's association with the arts is further celebrated during the Whitby Goth Weekend, an event that attracts visitors from across the country. It offers a stage for Gothic culture and music, complementing the town's historical backdrop.

Eden Camp Modern History Theme Museum lies in the proximity of Whitby and presents immersive exhibitions on modern history. Located in a former World War II prisoner-of-war camp, it captures the wartime spirit through meticulously curated artefacts and reconstructions.

These attractions are corners of a tapestry that tell the story of Whitby's cultural landscape, offering both residents and tourists a glimpse into the rich tapestry of the town's artistic and historical fabric.


Religious Sites and Memorials

In Whitby, visitors have the opportunity to explore a variety of religious sites and memorials rich with history and cultural significance.

Whitby Abbey stands as a testament to the town's ancient religious influence, having been an important centre of spirituality since its founding in 657 AD by the Anglo-Saxon King of Northumbria. Perched atop the East Cliff, it presents breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

St. Mary's Church, accessible via the iconic 199 Steps, is an evocative site with deep historical roots dating back to the 12th century. Visitors climb the stone steps not only for the spiritual significance but also to take in the panoramic views of the town and coastline.

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby honours the renowned British explorer, who served an apprenticeship in the town. While not a religious site, the museum is housed in the 17th-century building, thought to have once been the dwelling of Captain Cook and offers historical insights into his life and impact on maritime exploration.

Whitby Town War Memorial pays tribute to those lost in conflict. It provides both a sombre reminder of the past and an opportunity for reflection. Visitors can also find informative plaques providing context about the town's contributions to wartime efforts.

These sites represent Whitby's rich tapestry of history and are an integral part of any visitor's experience.


Outdoor Activities and Sports in Whitby

Whitby is a picturesque seaside town that boasts a rich tapestry of outdoor activities catering to both sport enthusiasts and families seeking leisure.

Fishing Excursions

Whitby is renowned for its deep-sea fishing expeditions. Prospective anglers can hop aboard chartered fishing boats, where experienced skippers navigate the rich waters of the North Sea. These excursions offer the chance to haul in a varied catch, providing both thrill and tranquillity against the backdrop of Whitby's stunning coastline.

Pleasure Boat Trips

For those seeking a more relaxed maritime experience, pleasure boats sail along the harbour and coast, revealing Whitby's maritime history and stunning shorelines. These trips showcase the natural beauty of the area and often provide commentary on local lore and landscape.

Coastal Walks

Adventurers can follow trails that meander along the cliffs, rewarding them with breathtaking vistas. Whether for leisurely strolls or more challenging hikes, the coastal paths invite an intimate exploration of Whitby's natural beauty.

Fish and Chips

Finally, no outdoor activity in Whitby is complete without savouring the local catch. Fish and chips stands dot the promenade, allowing diners to enjoy this iconic British fare in view of the waves from which their meal was sourced.

Whitby offers a diverse array of activities sure to entice those eager to experience the great outdoors and the town’s coastal charm.


Entertainment and Nightlife

Whitby, a quaint seaside town, offers visitors a myriad of nighttime activities that showcase its unique charm and history.

Whitby Pavilion, situated on the West Cliff, serves as a cultural hub with its theatre, cinema, and music venue. They organise a range of events including live music, cinema screenings, and theatre productions, ensuring there's entertainment for everyone.

Nightclubs and Pubs:

  • JD Wetherspoons, The Angel Hotel: A popular choice for affordable drinks. It spans two floors with ample seating upstairs.
  • Arch & Abbey: Known for its selection of local craft beers and gins.
  • The Fleece: Offers a variety of drinks complemented by a friendly atmosphere.

For those interested in an evening stroll, the town transforms at night, providing a serene atmosphere away from the daytime bustle. Photographers will find the gothic architecture and harbour lights create stunning backdrops worthy of capturing.

Cultural Experience:

Fans of the classic TV series, Heartbeat, can explore the nostalgia of filming locations in and around Whitby during the evening, adding to the town's vintage British charm.


Planning Your Visit

When planning a trip to Whitby, it's essential to consider accommodation, transport, and event timings to make the most of your visit. The following subsections provide the necessary information on each aspect.

Accommodation and Bookings

Whitby offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences.

Booking in advance is highly recommended, especially during peak times such as the Whitby Goth Weekend or the summer holidays when places can sell out quickly.

Travellers can consult platforms like TripAdvisor and Booking.com for ratings and reviews. Availability for popular choices like the North Yorkshire Moors cottages can be checked directly through their websites or through services like Airbnb.

  • Hotels: Range from budget to luxury; advance booking advised.
  • B&Bs/Guesthouses: Offer local charm; popular ones fill up quickly.
  • Cottages/Self-catering: Ideal for longer stays; book early for best selection.

Travel and Accessibility

Whitby is accessible by road, and there is ample parking available, though spaces can be limited during events.

For those preferring public transport, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway offers a historical and scenic route into the heart of Whitby.

The town itself is quite walkable, and many attractions are within easy reach on foot.

Visitors with disabilities should research accessibility information for each attraction, as some historical sites may have limited access.

  • Car: Check local car parks for pricing and availability.
  • Train: Book tickets through the North Yorkshire Moors Railway website.
  • Walking: Many attractions are centrally located.

Visitor Information and Reviews

Websites like TripAdvisor offer a wealth of information on attractions, complete with reviews and ratings to guide visitors.

The popular spots tend to have more page views and typically rank higher on TripAdvisor pages.

Prospective visitors can look up the most current information on TripAdvisor to ensure they are getting the most factual and up-to-date advice.

  • Information: Check TripAdvisor for latest reviews.
  • Updates: Look for most recent visitor photos and comments.

Tickets and Pricing

Many attractions in Whitby offer the option to book tickets in advance, and doing so can help avoid disappointment.

Sites like Viator and the English Heritage webpage provide the convenience for visitors to purchase tickets online.

Pricing can vary greatly, with some attractions offering discounts for online bookings or audio guide add-ons for a richer experience.

  • Advanced Booking: Recommended to guarantee entry, especially during peak times.
  • Discounts: Look for online booking discounts or group rates.

Events and Seasonal Highlights

Whitby's calendar is marked by various events that draw large crowds, such as the Whitby Goth Weekend and the Dracula Experience.

Visitors planning to attend these events should check the event dates and book accommodations and tickets well in advance to avoid inflated prices or sellouts.

For a less crowded experience, consider visiting outside of these peak times.


Frequently Asked Questions

The section addresses common inquiries by visitors aiming to explore Whitby, providing clear and informative answers tailored to enhance the visitor experience.

What are the top attractions for couples visiting Whitby?

Couples visiting Whitby may enjoy a romantic boat trip along the harbour on The Bark Endeavour, offering picturesque views and insights into Captain Cook's historical impact. The atmospheric Whitby Abbey is also a favourite for a shared cultural experience.

Which activities in Whitby can be enjoyed without any entrance fees?

Whitby Harbour offers a delightful stroll free of charge, where one can soak in the maritime atmosphere and enjoy views from the lighthouses on both piers. Exploring the town's charming streets and witnessing the Whitby Swing Bridge in operation are also cost-free pleasures.

Can you suggest some unconventional activities in Whitby?

For an unconventional activity, visitors can engage with the science evolution in a playful manner through interactive exhibits featuring electric phenomena like Jacob’s Ladder at a local science-themed attraction.

Where can families find engaging activities in Whitby?

Families with children can visit a local attraction where a small activity area allows kids to dress up and engage imaginatively with the setting. The Captain Cook Memorial Museum also offers an educational experience about the famed seaman's apprenticeship in Whitby.

What are the best evening entertainment options in Whitby?

Evening entertainment in Whitby includes a diverse range of options from live music venues and traditional pubs to performances at the Whitby Pavilion Theatre. The town often hosts events that allow visitors to enjoy the local cultural scene.

Which Whitby landmarks have connections to Dracula?

The iconic Whitby Abbey has dramatic Gothic ruins and the 199 steps leading up to it. They are indelibly linked with Dracula as they feature prominently in Bram Stoker's novel.

A visit here allows one to trace the footsteps of the legendary vampire.

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