Things to do in Whitby

Head to the Yorkshire Coast for an amazing holiday with stunning coastal villages, perfect beaches and gothic activities. Here are all the best things to do in Whitby.

Whitby Town in North Yorkshire Coast

Whitby is a postcard-perfect British seaside destination with so many things to do. There are wonderful activities to be enjoyed all year round. We visited the North Yorkshire Coast to immerse ourselves in all things quirky and gothic. After all, Whitby was the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The moment you arrive, you’ll marvel at the dramatic coastline, golden sandy beaches and a gorgeous pier with two lighthouses that have been welcoming boats back into the safety of the harbour for centuries.

If you love foodie activities, there’s plenty of fresh seafood to be enjoyed as well as relaxing afternoon teas with traditional scones and cakes. You’ll meander up 199 steps to admire Whitby from above, then venture into the spooky Whitby Abbey to learn about its gothic past. Before heading back to the main town for some shopping from local artisans, don’t forget to purchase your Dracula souvenirs.

Stunning Whitby Town from the clifftop

For a spooky evening, explore lamp-lit cobbled streets at dusk or brave the cliff-top graveyard at St Mary’s Church at foggy dawns.

Whether you visit in the summer to enjoy swimming in the sea and chilling on the beach, or during winter when there are plenty of festivals to partake in, Whitby is the perfect place on the Yorkshire Coast that truly has it all. Here are the best things to do in Whitby that are going to make your holiday amazing.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey was a 7th-century Christian monastery that later became a Benedictine abbey. It’s perched on a clifftop in Whitby overlooking the North Sea.

Bram Stoker found inspiration for his novel, Dracula after staying in Whitby in 1890. He loved the atmosphere in the town the special red roofs and particularly the Whitby Abbey.

Visit either in the morning or just before sunset. We visited just before sunset in the winter, when the Abbey looks most gothic and spooky. Know that the Whitby Abbey is one the most celebrated sight in North Yorkshire and for a good reason!

Stop at the gift shop on the way out to purchase a copy of the novel Dracula for as little as £2.50. Order a cup of Yorkshire Tea and enjoy your brew while reading your new novel in the tea room by the Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey at dusk

199 Steps

Legend has it that these 199 steps were a test of Christian faith for those who wanted to reach St. Mary’s Church. However, nowadays many locals and tourists alike climb the steps to enjoy sweeping views over the town of Whitby and its harbour.

From atop, you’ll admire the many layers of buildings in Whitby with their famed red roofs. This coastal town might remind you of other European fishing villages, similarly built on layers, from the harbour up to the cliffs.

While climbing 199 steps might seem daunting, we’re here to assure you that it only takes around 10 minutes to get to the top. The steps are wide enough for you to stop along the way if you need to and allow others to pass. Besides, we do recommend that you stop from time to time to admire the town and take lots of amazing photos.

Whitby Town from 199 steps

Whale Bone

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Whitby had a thriving whaling industry. Many ventured out to the Arctic seas to hunt whales and make money out of the lucrative whale oil. Few returned and to celebrate their success, crews would tie a whale’s jaw bone to their ship.

To recognise this tradition, an arch made from whalebone was erected on the West Cliff in 1853. However, the whalebone arch you see nowadays it’s a replica that came from a Bowhead whale killed legally by native Alaskan Inuits. [source]

Take pictures here then sit down on one of the benches to admire the East Cliff of Whitby with its impressive sight of the Whitby Abbey.

Whalebone arch in Whitby Town

Whitby Sands

Whitby Sands beach is situated to the west of the town and is also known as West Cliff Beach. Visit during the summer and relax on the beach, get a tan and swim in the North Sea.

There are ice cream shops on the beach that sells fantastic flavours made with local Yorkshire dairy.

During the winter, walk on the beach and see if you can spot any Whitby jet. To warm up, grab some fish & chips and mulled wine from the local shops.

Did you know? You can walk from the Whitby Sands all the way to Sandsend on the beach? It’s just under 3 miles and the beach is golden with buttery sand, ideal for a promenade.

Whitby Sands with a rainbow

Whitby Jet

Whitby Jet can be found on one small stretch of the North Yorkshire coastline. Jet is a gemstone made from decaying wood under extreme pressure. It’s a type of coal substance, approximately 182 million years old, that washes up on the beaches of Whitby.

Visit the museum of Whitby Jet to learn about the special artefacts with over 400 varied examples of jewellery. Head over to W. Hamond which is the original Whitby Jet Shop. They have been manufacturing and selling high-quality jewellery made from the Yorkshire gemstone Whitby Jet since the year 1860.

You will find the jet in just about any type of jewellery and the prices range to cover all budgets. This is the perfect Whitby souvenir for you and your loved ones!

Cory and G from You Could Travel on the oak staircase at the judges lodge

Whitby Harbour

Whitby’s harbour is at the very heart of the town, and the River Esk estuary is the only natural harbour along the 100 miles (160 km) of coastline between the rivers Tees and Humber.

We recommend you take an evening stroll to the West Pier which is easier to access. Did you know that Whitby is one of the few places in the UK where you can watch the sunrise and set over the sea in summer? A must-see if you visit Whitby during the summer!

Whitby Harbour with its piers

The Magpie Cafe

A must during your visit to Whitby is a visit to the Magpie Cafe. Opened in 1954, the Magpie Cafe is like an institution to the locals of Whitby. The cafe prides itself in serving fresh fish dishes, amazing daily delicacies and special desserts that everyone loves.

It’s recommended to book a table during the busiest times and remember to take advantage of the daily offers and special menus. Enjoy a traditional fish and chips lunch or celebrate with oysters and wines.

Whitby Harbour that leads to the Magpie Cafe

Town Centre

You’re going to fall in love with the old Whitby town centre. Think winding cobbled streets lined with cafes, souvenir shops and artisanal bakeries. A joy to be there amongst happy locals who are always keen to start a conversation and point you in the direction of their favourite traditional pub.

Buy an array of souvenirs from the town centre and visit unexpected shops with unusual and unique merchandise. Visit the natural wonders shop, the Venus Trading, Kemps on the coast or J’adore Whitby to name just a few.

Church lane in Whitby town

Cliff Street

From the Bram Stoker’s Bench located on the West side of Whitby, make your way towards the Swing Bridge via Cliff Street. Walk on this narrow little lane dotted with quaint British cottages, all featuring unique doors, stained glass and gorgeous gardens.

As a bonus, come here either at dusk for a gothic walk or during a foggy morning to feel like you’re in the Dracula movie set.

Side streets in Whitby Town

St Mary’s Church at twilight

If you love gothic adventures, you’re going to love your next stop on your to-do list in Whitby. Just after the sun sets, head over to the St Mary’s Church, perched on the East Cliff of Whitby, at the top of the 199 steps. There are many old gravestones in the church’s graveyard and it looks incredibly spooky as twilight.

You’ll understand why Whitby was such an inspiration behind Stoker’s Dracula. Don’t forget to take your tripod with you if you want to take professional photos in the dark.

spooky road st marys church whitby

Afternoon Tea

Some of the activities in Whitby are all about relaxing with a cup of tea and delicious scones. There are so many small independent tea rooms waiting to serve you a hot cuppa and a cake.

Just remember that many of these small places don’t take cards, so it’s best to have some cash with you at all times. We recommend ordering a cup of strong Yorkshire tea, one of the most beloved tea brands in England.

Comfortable seating in a local cafe in Whitby

Spa Package

If you’re wondering where to stay in Whitby, we have just the place for you. Head over to the wonderful country house hotel called Raithwaite Sandsend. This hotel offers spacious rooms and it features a spa consisting of a pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. You can prebook treatments as well for a true pampering experience.

You’ll be just a 10-minute drive from Whitby so a must when you visit the town.

After your afternoon of sheer joy, make sure to eat dinner at the Raithwaite, where you can pick from an array of British contemporary dishes. Their wine list is extensive with delicious reds, roses and whites from all around the world including France, Italy and New Zealand.

Whitby Goth Weekend

If you are the sort of traveller that loves out of ordinary experiences, then you should visit Whitby during its goth weekend. Founded in 1994, the Whitby Goth Weekend is an alternative music festival.

Furthermore, locals and tourists alike dress up in the fanciest goth costumes, so you’ll get the chance to take some marvellous photos around. This is a true homage to Dracula’s original town.

For steampunk and goth lovers, this festival is a must for the bucket list.

Bryan Ledgard - Goth Weekend Whitby

Credit: Bryan Ledgard, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Whitby Krampus Run

If you love legend and lore, visit Whitby during the Krampus Run, a winter festival held in December. Whitby Krampus Run started in 2013 and it then went to become a full public event in 2017. The costumed street parade is an interpretation of the Alpine winter tradition with the inclusion of local folklore and history.

As I was born in Romania, we too have a variation of the Krampus. The Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure in Central and Eastern Alpine folklore who, during the Christmas season, scares children who have misbehaved. Assisting Saint Nicholas, the pair visit children on the night of the 5th December, with Saint Nicholas rewarding the well-behaved children with modest gifts such as oranges, dried fruit, walnuts and chocolate, whilst the badly behaved ones only receive punishment from Krampus with birch rods. [source]

You will want to hit the streets for this parade to take amazing pictures and enjoy the local celebratory atmosphere.

Krampus Weekend in Whitby

Sandsend Night Sky

Did you know that the Yorkshire coast is blessed with some of the most incredible night skies in the whole of England? Head over to the Sandsend beach at night, lay down on a beach towel and admire the night sky in all its glory. You can see the Milky Way and during winter some are lucky enough to see the aurora borealis.

Robin Hood’s Bay

Just 15 minutes outside of Whitby is the quaint coastal village called Robin Hood’s Bay. You’ll want to visit it as early in the morning as you can to avoid the crowds. It’s a lovely little village with cobbled streets, alleyways and unique shops for souvenirs.

Head down to the beach and pass stunning little stone cottages. Stop for a cup of tea at the Tea, Toast and Post, then grab a bite at the Fish Box, where you can eat fish and chips with a view of the coast.

With so many things to do in Whitby, you can see why tourists come to this lovely British town year-round. We recommend visiting during the off-season to enjoy a quieter place, with more photo opportunities. If you love a bustling Whitby, then visit during the goth weekend or during the Krampus Run. For beach bums and sunshine seekers, Whitby is a must during the summer holidays.

You are now well equipped with a comprehensive list of things to do in Whitby and are ready to enjoy our favourite coastal town in North Yorkshire! Have lots of fun!

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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


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