Top Things to do in Whitby UK
So you’re thinking about visiting Yorkshire and you’re wondering what to do in Whitby. There are plenty of great things to do in Whitby, making it the perfect choice for a day out by the English seaside or even a whole weekend trip.
From historical hilltop Abbeys to seaside arcades, the small coastal town of Whitby awaits. Home of Captain Cook, fish and chips and Count Dracula, Whitby has many attractions, activities, things to see and restaurants that are worth exploring.
Whatever the season, you’ll be able to enjoy Whitby’s delightful museums, the hilltop church of St. Mary’s and the grand and iconic Whitby Abbey.
There are also many things to do near Whitby too, from hiking the Cleveland Way to visiting other coastal towns of Staithes and Robin Hoods Bay, making the area attractive for more than just a day trip. Visiting Whitby provides a lovely introduction to England’s North or a chance to get reacquainted with the culture and history of this beautiful part of the UK.
Keep reading for your very own Whitby travel guide and uncover all the places to visit in Whitby and some of the top things to do on the North Yorkshire Coast.
*This ‘things to do at Whitby’ post contains affiliate links meaning I might make a small profit if you choose to book at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep providing you with top-quality content for free.
Read more: A Perfect Day Trip to York: Top Things to Do
How to Get to Whitby
Located in the northern county of Yorkshire, Whitby is sandwiched between the North Sea and the North York Moors National Park. Whitby is easy to get to from most places in the UK.
One of the best ways to get to Whitby is by driving. If you have your own car this might be the easiest and cost-effective way.
Coming from London and the south, it’s best to take the M1 north getting off just after Leeds and proceeding to Whitby on the A64. From London, the journey time takes just over 5 hours.
From Manchester head eastwards on the M62 and connect to the A64 just after Leeds.
Upon leaving your starting point, it’s always better to use a navigation app like Google Maps to help you with journey times and routes.
If you don’t have your own car, I highly recommend renting one from your origin destination.
I always use Discover Cars to find the cheapest rates for car rental in the UK. They generally have the best service, policies and deals. Click here to check rates for your dates with Discover Cars.
By Public transportation
Getting to Whitby by train is another good option. Whitby is served by Northern trains. There aren’t any direct trains from London and you’ll need to change twice depending on the route. Journey times are also just over 5 hours.
Taking a bus or coach to Whitby is another public transportation option from most other towns and cities in the UK. From London however, bus journey time can take between 8-10 hours with one change depending on the service so this definitely is not the fastest option. In fact, I’d probably only recommend taking the bus if you’re visiting Whitby from other nearby cities.
To compare bus and rail tickets you can use Omio– it’s my preferred platform to research and buy bus and rail tickets in the UK and Europe. Check bus and rail connections to Whitby using Omio here.
Whitby is very small and walkable so you probably won’t need to use local public transport. If you drove into Whitby it’s probably a good idea to find a central parking spot, leave your car there for the day and explore on foot.
Top Things to Do in Whitby UK
Whitby has many exciting things to do for travellers of all ages. From long beach walks to diving deep into the history of Whitby Abbey, this pretty Yorkshire town has all you need for a day in Whitby or a weekend away.
Most of the things to do in Whitby itself can be done in a day but I highly recommend spending a weekend in the area to make the most of amazing nearby places. Some of the best places to visit near Whitby include Robin Hood’s Bay, Staithes, the North York Moors National Park and York.
If you’re driving to Whitby from London you can also break up the journey by spending some time discovering the best towns and villages in the Peak District.
Visit Whitby Abbey
Located high above Whitby on East Cliff, it’s impossible not to notice the grand ruins of Whitby Abbey. One of the most popular attractions in Whitby, a visit to this romantic ruin is a must when it comes to the best things to do at Whitby.
The site has been used for monastic purposes since 657 but it was in the 11th Century when a Benedictine monastery was built on the site. It was later suppressed by Henry VIII and abandoned, the ruins of which we can see today on the hill.
The abandoned abbey has since been featured in many counts of literature including Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s particularly spooky around Halloween or on a gloomy winter’s afternoon right before dark.
The Abbey is maintained by English Heritage. Those that have annual membership will be able to visit for free.
Walk the 199 Steps
For some of the best views of Whitby town and harbour, you’ll want to head straight up these iconic stairs. Fly up the stairs, just like Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel, for splendid views and a great bout of exercise during your stay.
The 199 Steps are also one of the best places in Whitby to take photos, especially at sunrise or sunset. Make sure not to forget your camera. If you want to take photos with no people around, you’ll need to come early in the morning, ideally soon after sunrise for the best light too.
You’ll be able to access the bottom of the 199 Stairs from Church Lane and they’ll take you all the way up to St. Mary’s Church.
Go for a Walk around Whitby Harbour
Whitby’s Harbour is wide, long and vast and one of the best ways to experience it is to go for a walk around it. While strolling around you’ll be able to get 180 views of the entire harbour and beaches.
One of the best places to start is at Tate Hill Pier, just near the bottom of the 199 Steps. From here you can walk across the beach, down Sandgate and over Whitby Bridge. On the other side, continue around the harbour down St. Ann’s Staith and follow Pier Road all the way to West Pier.
When at West Pier you can also climb up and visit Whitby Harbour West Lighthouse. A spiral staircase of 81 stairs will take you to the top of the lighthouse where you can admire the immaculate sea views, boats coming in and out of the harbour as well as the town itself.
Delve into the Life of Captain Cook at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum
The Captain Cook Museum is one of the best museums in Whitby especially if you want to learn more about the famous seaman himself, Captain Cook. The museum is located in a house where Cook served his apprenticeship when studying to be a seaman.
When visiting the museum you’ll be able to see part of this original 17th Century House where James Cook lived and studied when not at sea. You’ll be able to learn more about his life and his expeditions.
The Captain Cook Memorial Museum also features a wide range of paintings and prints as well as rotating art exhibitions so there’s bound to be something on during your visit.
Spend some time on Whitby Beach
I know the words England and beach don’t always go together in the sentence but Whitby’s beach is a delightful place, especially on a day out in Whitby in the summer months. It’s a wide expanse of sand that’s lovely for relaxing, walking or even having a beach picnic.
Whitby Sands Beach is the main beach in town where you’ll find a long, golden, sandy beach as well as Whitby Pavilion and the classic Whitby Beach Huts.
If you keep walking north along the coast you’ll get to Sandsend Beach, another lovely, large beach near Whitby.
On the adjacent side of the harbour there’s also a small expanse of sand to have a rest on while exploring the harbour and town.
If you’re someone who prefers active beach days then make sure to look out for surf lessons being offered on Whitby beach during the summer months. The small waves here are perfect for beginners.
Go for a Coastal Yorkshire Boat Ride
Fancy getting to know the Yorkshire coast a little more? Well, from Whitby harbour, you can. Many different companies offer scenic boat rides starting from Whitby Harbour where visitors can get a glimpse and learn more about Yorkshire’s lovely coastline and learn a little more about the town’s history.
One of the best boat trips in Whitby is on the Bark Endeavour, an authentic replica of the HMS Endeavour which Captain Cook sailed in 1768. This replica is 40% smaller but it gives you a great idea of what life at sea would have looked like in the 18th Century. On the Bark Endeavour, you’ll sail through the harbour and then along the coast to Sandsend for great views of the coast and beaches.
For more information and sailing schedules click here.
When visiting make sure to not just make a beeline for the attractions in Whitby. Part of Whitby’s beauty actually lies in its small cobblestone lanes and historic alleyways.
One of the best things to do in Whitby is just to walk around and explore them. You’ll find picturesque streets of Victorian houses, old inns with their traditional stables as well as quaint modern cafes and shops dotted around town. The cobblestone alleys transport you right back to historical times.
To make exploring the town more exciting and informative I highly recommend this Essential Whitby Self-Guided Walking Tour as you explore Whitby. As you walk around you’ll get some interesting facts about the town as well as learn about local legends. The audio and GPS experience is also super easy to download and follow. Click here for more.
Catch a Sunset or a Sunrise
When the weather cooperates, both sunrises and sunsets in Whitby can be spectacular. With that golden light radiating outward Whitby often looks like it’s on fire with the sea glistening in the distance.
The best places to watch the sunset are from the top of the 199 Steps, Whitby Abbey and St. Mary’s Church where you’ll get a spectacular view of the harbour and the town below.
For sunrise, you’ll want to be facing towards Whitby Abbey so the best spots are generally from somewhere on the West Pier or Pier Road.
Sunrises are also great from Whitby Sands Beach too as the sun rises from out of the ocean.
Whitby is one of the only places in England where you can catch the sun rising and setting over the sea, especially in winter when the sun’s course is much shorter.
Visit St. Mary’s Church
At the top of the 199 Steps, you’ll find St. Mary’s Church and Cemetery, one of the most important churches in Whitby. The church was originally founded in 1110 and parts of it today still date back to the 12th and 13th Centuries. Most of what stands today however, dates back to the 18th Century.
While the church is nice enough, it’s the cemetery here that’s the real highlight. Ancient and unmaintained, here you’ll find barely legible headstones which jut out in all directions. It has a real abandoned feel to it and it’s easy to see how Bram Stoker wanted to use it as a setting in his book Dracula.
For a truly spooky experience, make sure to come up here after dark, where you’ll find St. Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey beautifully lit under a dark night sky.
Try the Craft Beer at Whitby Brewery
Even if you aren’t a huge fan of beer, visiting the Whitby Brewery on a fine summer’s day is a must. Located right next to Whitby Abbey on the top of East Cliff, and with lovely views of the abbey itself, this brewery is actually a converted barn, with lots of outdoor seating.
Beer fans will be able to sample some of their speciality brews which change seasonally. Make sure to try the ‘Whitby Whaler’ or ‘Smugglers Gold’ which are both balanced and fruity.
Whitby Brewery also offers a 45 minute tour of the grounds where you can learn more about how their craft beer is made. The tour also includes three sample ales to taste – perfect for trying to decide which is your favourite.
If you’re not a big beer drinker that’s definitely no reason not to visit. They also have a range of soft and alternative drinks to sample while enjoying the surroundings.
Walk the Cleveland Way to Robin Hood’s Bay
For those looking for some extra exercise and amazing views during your visit to North Yorkshire, make sure to not miss this lovely coastal walk, one of the best places of interest near Whitby.
The Cleveland Way National Trail is a 109-mile walking trail that runs from from Helmsley in North Yorkshire to Saltburn-by-the-Sea and then follows the coast down to Filey. We don’t suggest you walk the entire route but the 7- mile path from Whitby to the old smuggler’s village of Robin Hoods Bay is spectacular. It’s one of the best fun things to do in Whitby for outdoorsy types.
When in Robin Hood’s Bay, you’ll find plenty of great things to do. You can uncover its smuggler’s history, visit the Old Coastguard’s Station, spend time on the beach and explore the quaint, narrow alleyways.
After wandering around Robin Hoods Bay and stopping for lunch you can head back along the trail or take the bus back to Whitby. A trip out here really is one of the best things to do near Whitby.
Photograph Whitby through the Whalebone Arch
The Whalebone Arch is one of the most popular Whitby tourist attractions. The arch dates back to 1853 when Whitby was a leading centre of the UK’s whaling industry. Over the years the arch has been replaced -mainly due to weathering by coastal storms and gales- and what we can see today are bones from a Bowhead whale killed legally by Alaskan Inuits.
The 20-foot Whalebone Arch stands tall on a hill beautifully framing the quaint cottages of Whitby town and the iconic Whitby Abbey just above them. The scene makes for a brilliant photo that’s pretty difficult to resist.
Right next to the Whitby Whalebone Arch you’ll also find a statue of Captain Cook, another important figure in Whitby’s history.
Visit Staithes for the Afternoon
Just 10 miles north of Whitby, you’ll find Staithes, a gorgeous little harbour village just 20 minutes from Whitby.
Staithes actually resembles Whitby rather closely, just on a smaller scale. Staithes harbour is a very picturesque scene with orange-roofed cottages, flanking a slow-flowing Staithes Beck.
There are plenty of things to do in Staithes for the afternoon when visiting from Whitby. Make sure to visit the highly-rated Staithes Gallery, explore the town and the harbour and visit The Staithes Story, a small museum, to learn more about the history of the town.
It is possible to visit Staithes from Whitby by bus, however, the quickest way and most efficient is to drive the 20 minutes up the coast.
Visit the Whitby Museum and the Pannet Art Gallery
One of the best things to do in Whitby on a rainy day, this gallery and museum are located side by side making them easily seen together.
Head to the Whitby Museum to learn more about the local area. Here you can also see locally found fossils and bird specimens as well as hundred-years old whaling industry gear and materials.
Next door, the Pannet Art Gallery showcases some amazing landscape paintings where you can see what Whitby and other local coastal towns looked like in the past. Apart from their standing collection, there are also many other rotating exhibitions so it’s worth a look.
Where to Stay in Whitby
If you’re heading to Whitby for a weekend, you’ll no doubt need a good place to stay. Luckily there are plenty of great options from traditional B&Bs and Inns to lovely cottages and hotels. Here are some of the best places to stay in Whitby.
Sneaton Castle – Located on the outskirts of Whitby, this superb converted castle is the perfect place to stay for history, luxury and a touch of something different. We don’t always have the option to stay in a castle, right?
The rooms and grounds here are divine – cosy and well-designed with plenty of space to enjoy the facilities. The onsite restaurant is highly rated and the helpful staff are always there for anything you might need during your stay. Check rates and availability here.
Raithwaite Sandsend – Located just above Sandsend Beach, this property is perfect for those looking for a country escape while also getting the best of Whitby. Raithwaite Sandsend offers beautiful rooms, landscaped gardens, an indoor pool and spa facilities to make sure you can really relax and unwind during your stay.
The restaurant focuses on seasonal and local ingredients and they also offer a fully plant-based menu during your stay. Our top pick for Whitby for sure! Check rates and availability here.
White Horse & Griffin – A traditional inn seeped in history, this is a great place to stay in the center of Whitby. Rooms here are newly renovated, clean, cosy and the breakfast options are great too. Check rates and availability here.
Where to Eat in Whitby
What is Whitby famous for? Traditionally famous for fish and chips, the town of Whitby offers plenty of traditional English seaside fare. You won’t find a shortage of things to eat when visiting Whitby from famous English fish and chips to lobster and classic sandwiches. You’ll also find a wide range of international cuisine such as Indian and Thai food.
For plant-based and healthy eaters it’s a little more difficult to find a good meal that ticks all the boxes as there tends to be a lot of deep-fried seafood in Whitby. He’s our guide to the best eating options in Whitby.
Ditto Restaurant– One of the best restaurants in Whitby for modern British cuisine, the food here is just divine. Combining local and seasonal produce with English heritage and traditions, it’s a feast for the palate and a must during your stay. There’s always one vegetarian starter and main on the menu.
The Star Inn The Harbour– Located right on the harbour, this Michellin guide restaurant is one of the best for fish and chips and fish dishes in general. Expect a lot of great, local seafood, expertly cooked and put together. Just make sure to leave room for dessert.
Whitby Deli – The perfect place for a casual coffee, brunch, lunch or to grab some supplies for a beach picnic. The Whitby Deli serves a variety of local breakfasts and homemade cafe-style dishes such as soups, sandwiches, pasta and nibbles.
Magpie Cafe- For those looking for the best fish and chips in Whitby, the Magpie Cafe might be it and the whole town seems to agree, judging by the queues going out the door.
Housed in a traditional black and white building, facing the harbour, it’s a great spot for classic fish and chips as well as some other sophisticated seafood dishes. They also have fresh oysters and some veggie-friendly mains. Just make sure to come early or you’ll need to queue for quite a bit of time.
Whitby Packing List
Make sure you have all you need for your trip to Whitby with our ultimate packing list. This exact packing list will vary depending on the season that you visit but most of the time you’ll need the following.
Camera: Whitby is incredibly picturesque and you won’t want to leave home without your camera to create lasting memories of your trip here. I use the Sony a7riii and most of these pictures were taken with my main lens the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art. For video and for those that prefer to take pictures with just your phone, the camera capabilities of the iPhone 14 Pro are just insane.
Read more: What’s In My Camera Bag? All the Gear I Use as a Travel Blogger
Umbrella/Waterproof Jacket: It’s safe to say that it rains a lot in Whitby even in the summer. Don’t let the rain put a dampener on your day and make sure to bring a light waterproof and an umbrella in case the sky turns grey. I love this jacket from Barbour. Is there anything more English?
Comfortable Footwear: I highly recommend comfortable, water-resistant boots for the winter and comfortable sandals/sneakers for the summer. Whitby isn’t a huge city but you’ll be walking a lot as there aren’t many other ways to get around the center. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes like these New Balance 237 V1 sneakers.
Reusable Water Bottle: Keep hydrated while also doing your part to save the world from plastic pollution. Check out my favourite bottle from Hydroflask.
Portable Powerbank: You don’t want your phone to run out of battery as you navigate your way around the seaside town.
Are you ready to plan your perfect day out in Whitby? Let me know your questions and comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
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Planning a trip right now? These are just some of my favourite websites I use to book everything from hotels to rental cars!
Discover Cars and Auto Europe for quick and easy car rentals worldwide
Booking.com for great deals on hotels
Agoda also for great deals on hotels
Get Your Guide and Viator for tours and adventures around the world
Related posts for things to do in North Yorkshire and beyond:
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Peak District Villages & Towns
The Mam Tor Walk Guide – 4 Picturesque Mam Tor Walks For All Abilities
A Perfect Day Trip to York: Top Things to Do
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