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.
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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.