Whitby is a tiny seaside resort on the Yorkshire coast with a huge soul and a fascinating history. Things to do in Whitby include visiting historic attractions and museums, shopping for Whitby jet, and scoffing ocean-fresh fish and seafood.
As one of the most beautiful towns in North Yorkshire, days in Whitby can be spent simply appreciating the coastal views.
Read on for what to do in Whitby during a day trip or longer stay.
How to get to Whitby
You can get to Whitby via road or rail.
The A64 and A171 link the A1(M) with Whitby as well as towns such as Malton, Scarborough, and Middlesborough.
Whitby Train Station is served by Northern Rail. Direct trains link the town to Middlesborough, Sunderland, Durham, and Newcastle. For those travelling from larger cities in Yorkshire, the South, and beyond, you should expect to change at one of these stations.
Consult train schedules and fares with thetrainline.
The Coastliner bus is convenient for those travelling from Leeds, Tadcaster, York, Malton, and Scarborough. The route traverses the North York Moors National Park and is devastatingly scenic. You can purchase tickets from the driver using cash or contactless card.
How to get around Whitby
Whitby is small and walkable; there’s no need to drive or hire a bicycle unless you plan on adventuring further afield during your stay.
The Coastliner bus connects to neighbouring seaside towns if you want to explore things to do near Whitby.
Best time to visit Whitby
Whitby is the perfect all-year seaside town.
Temperatures peak in the summer months and this is a good time to sunbathe or dip your toe in the North Sea. However, you will need to brace yourself for crowds and limited accommodation if you book last minute. It’s advisable that you avoid visiting Whitby during the six-week British school holiday in July and August.
Late spring, early summer, and autumn are perfect in terms of weather conditions and diminished crowds.
In terms of what to do in Whitby in winter, blue skies and salty sea air will clear away any cobwebs. Despite the nippier weather, winter in Whitby is atmospheric and perfect for walking. Bear in mind that tourist attractions operate under reduced hours.
Where to stay in Whitby
Whitby’s accommodation scene is predominantly a spread of inns and pubs with lodgings. There are a couple of guest houses and self-catered apartments too. Lodgings are perfect for families and romantic UK getaways.
- White Horse & Griffin comprises snug en suite rooms curated in a homely fashion and the rate includes breakfast.
- Sanders Yard is a cosy guest house attached to a bistro. All rooms have a private bathroom and dogs are welcome on request.
- Whitby Bridge Luxury Apartments have suites that accommodate up to six guests. All units are fitted with a full kitchen.
- Dunsley Hall Country House is located a 10-minute drive out of town in a historic manor with a garden. This peaceful hotel is perfect for couples.
If you are looking to stay in a beautiful apartment or cottage to enjoy more self-catering options in Whitby, don’t miss out on our top picks over on Plumguide.
- Mother Hen is a two-bedroom cottage that sits right on the Whitby Harbour. Ideal for a family. Book a stay at Mother Hen here.
- Above the Rooftops is a modern apartment in the Flowergate district. You’re only a few minutes away from the harbour and all the town’s best restaurants. Book a stay at Above the Rooftops here.
- Ice Cream Ledge is perfect for a group of friends or two couples who want to enjoy the best of Whitby. It has two bedrooms and a big living room and kitchen. It has an incredible balcony that takes in views over the harbour. Book a stay at Ice Cream Ledge here.
Things to do in Whitby
Now, over to the top attractions and activities to do in Whitby. The following suggestions are suitable for a mix of travellers – Whitby is a popular day trip or holiday spot for couples, families, and friendship groups alike.
Each listing links to where you can purchase tickets (if applicable) and the exact location on Google.
1. Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey is the emblem of the town. It’s located on the cliffs on the east side of the River Esk and overlooks the North Sea and Whitby Harbour.
The original Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded in AD 657. A Benedictine monastery was established in 1078 and this abbey is what stands in ruins today – following its suppression at the hands of Henry VIII.
Of course, one of the most popular Whitby attractions is synonymous with Count Dracula. The writer Bram Stoker took inspiration for his novel when he visited the town in 1890.
The abbey is open year-round but generally closes on Mondays and Tuesdays over the winter months. You are recommended to purchase tickets online in advance but you can generally buy them on the door.
Check out the gift shop too where you can purchase beautiful editions of Dracula, bottles of mead, and other oldy-worldly trinkets.
2. 199 Steps
199 stone steps link Whitby’s Old Town with Whitby Abbey. You can walk up the steps and enjoy elevated views of the town, harbour, and ocean.
Once you get to the top, you can explore the area around the abbey. The cemetery on the headland offers sweeping coastal views. Walking along the cliffs toward Saltwick Bay is one of the recommended things to do in Whitby with a dog. But remember to keep your dog on a lead.
At the lower end of the steps, you can roam the teensy street of Whitby Old Town. This is the best place to browse artisanal souvenirs, Whitby jet, and traditional sweet shops.
3. Captain Cook Memorial Museum
Captain James Cook is a prolific explorer, navigator, and cartographer who started out in the British Navy. He later made three voyages across the Pacific Ocean between 1768 and 1779 and was responsible for the early mapping of New Zealand to Hawaii.
Cook undertook training in Whitby and resided in the town in between explorations. The Captain Cook Memorial Museum delves into his life, travels, and deeds.
As with the abbey, the museum is open year-round with reduced hours in winter. You can purchase tickets directly at the premises.
4. Whitby Beach
Whitby Beach and Whitby Sea Front are located in New Town on the west side of the river.
This long stretch of sand is perfect for sunbathing and surfing in warmer seasons. Whitby Surf School offers lessons and equipment rental.
If you visit during winter, a brisk walk on the beach is one of the best things to do in Whitby with a dog. Dog bans apply between 1 May and 30 September but at other times, four-legged friends are welcome.
As well as walking on the sand, you can follow the paved path alongside the beach. This is equally popular with cyclists.
While you’re exploring this way, you can snap a photo of the Whalebone Arch on North Terrace. This is a lifesize replica of a whale’s jawbone and is almost as iconic as the abbey. You can photograph Whitby Abbey across the harbour framed by the arch.
5. Yorkshire Coast Boat Cruise
Whitby Harbour bustles with boats ferrying tourists out for a cruise along the shore for scenic vistas of the Yorkshire coastline.
Even during winter, there are always a couple of boats with short sailings of 20-30 minutes costing as little as £5 for adults. Children under 5 sail for free so this is one of the best family-friendly things to do in Whitby.
Sunset, twilight and longer cruises run during peak seasons. Whitby Coastal Cruises is the main service provider of boat trips and tours. Advance booking is only recommended during school, seasonal, and bank holidays.
6. Whitby Storyteller Guided Walks and Tours
The Whitby Storyteller Guided Walks and Tours are delivered by an award-winning storyteller who was born and bred in Whitby.
Rose is an expert in Celtic, Eastern European, and Yorkshire fables, myths, and legends. Her guided tours are delivered with pizzazz and tread the line between entertaining and informative.
Walking tours occur in Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay, and the North York Moors National Park. There are different options to suit your personal interests, subject to whether you’re more curious about history, mythology, or the supernatural.
The Whitby Storyteller offers group and private tours.
7. Dracula Experience
The Dracula Experience is one of the cheesiest Whitby attractions but it’s curated in the best of spirits.
As you can gather, the experience is focused on the history of Dracula in Whitby. You’ll walk through a spooky set which is brought to life through animations, theatrical effects, live actors, and jumpscares.
Props include items used in the Dracula films, such as the cape worn by Christopher Lee in the 1958 adaptation.
Visit with an open mind (if you dare!) and you’ll not fail to have a chuckle.
8. West and East Lighthouses
The River Esk feeds into Whitby Harbour from the North Sea via two lighthouses: the West Lighthouse and the East Lighthouse. You can walk to each of these via a pair of piers and enjoy views across the sea and back toward the town.
It’s free to visit both and they’re accessible 24/7. Catching a sunset or sunrise from here is one of the most memorable Whitby things to do.
9. The Endeavour Experience
Docked on the River Esk, the Endeavour Experience is a full-size replica of Captain Cook’s vessel. It’s curated with informative displays including Cook’s Great Cabin, the Ships Wheel, Botanical Bounty, and Astronomy.
Interactive exhibits include the possibility to chart your own map, practice nautical knots, and sing traditional sea shanties.
As the Endeavour Experience is immersive and family-friendly, it’s one of the best Whitby attractions for kids.
You can purchase tickets onboard. The cafe is worthy of a visit too.
10. Fish and Chips
So what to do in Whitby when you get peckish? Gorge on the UK’s quintessential seaside meal!
Whitby is responsible for some of the best fish and chips in the UK. And, with this being the unofficial national dish, you’ll struggle to resist sampling a portion or two.
Pier Road is lined with fish and chip shops where you can dine in or grab a bag and eat on the pier. You can’t go wrong with any of the chip shops in Whitby but Papa’s and Angel Fisheries are personally recommended.
Besides the classic battered cod and haddock served with thick-cut chips and mushy peas, you can pick up scampi, shellfish, and the catch of the day.
Beware of seagulls while eating; they’re infamous in Whitby and feeding them is strictly frowned upon.
11. Hopes and Beans
Hopes and Beans is a contemporary coffee shop where you can pick up a top-quality coffee and a freshly baked slice of cake.
If you’re lucky enough to grab the table by the window on the first floor, you can enjoy harbour views and a spot of people watching.
This is a handy spot to know about if you have time to kill before catching your bus out of town or fancy cosying up with a copy of Dracula.
12. Whitby Amusements
Amusement arcades are the heart and soul of British seaside towns and Whitby is no different.
Whitby’s retro amusement centres present the classics of penny machines, video games, air hockey, and grabber machines. As Whitby is tiny in comparison to Scarborough and Blackpool, there’s a small offering of amusements – all are located on Pier Road.
Funland Amusements also has a mini-golf course and bowling alley.
The Whitby amusements are one of the best things to do in Whitby at night with or without kids.
Things to do around Whitby
If you are visiting for longer than one day, you can explore some of the neighbouring villages.
13. Robin Hood’s Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay is an even smaller coastal village six miles south of Whitby. It has a history of smuggling and yielding Jurassic remains and fossils.
A steep descent down New Road leads you into the heart of the village where you’ll find a museum, gift shops, and cafes. The Old Coastguard Station is the best place to brush up on local knowledge and grab a cup of tea.
Robin Hood’s Bay Beach is awash with rock pools where you can look for crabs. It’s important to check the tides and plan your visit to coincide with low tide if you want to go rock pooling.
You can also hike up the coastal cliffs for dramatic views over the bluffs.
The Coastliner connects the two and takes around 25 minutes. Robin Hood’s Bay is one of the best things to do near Whitby as a half-day or full-day trip.
14. The Cinder Track
The Cinder Track is a coastal path that connects Whitby with Scarborough and follows an old railway line.
In its entirety, the route is 21.7 miles and is popular with cyclists. However, you can follow the Cinder Track as far as Robin Hood’s Bay and then turn back or catch the bus. This shorter version is 7 miles and you can coincide it with a session of rock pooling.
The trailhead from the Whitby end starts at Southend Gardens. You’ll cross over the Larpool Viaduct and then continue through the moorland. Note that this trail is inland rather than coastal.
The Cinder Track is one of the top things to do in Whitby with a dog.
Staithes is another small fishing town, this time located 10 miles north of town. This is one of the best things to do near Whitby as a day trip.
The village is located on the Staithes Beck and comprises tiny cobblestone streets and passages. Captain Cook worked in Staithes as an apprentice and you can continue your education at the Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre.
Staithes is a hub for creatives and craftspeople with lots of cute boutiques where you can pick up handcrafted gifts.
As the Coastliner links Staithes with Whitby, you could consider visiting one town and then heading to the other over the course of one day.