29 things to do in Whitby

Coastal, Destinations

Posted by Clare Willcocks on 20th November 2023

Whitby Abbey from a striking angle

On the Yorkshire coast sits an intriguing coastal town. Split by the River Esk, with towering cliffs and an austere abbey overlooking the North Sea, it’s unlike any other seaside destination in the UK. The town is Whitby, and those who have visited or lived there will know that its uniqueness is its attraction.

The picturesque town has a long and interesting history, with fishing, the mining of Whitby jet, whaling and world exploration, not to mention a certain vampire, all making up the patchwork of its past.

There are hundreds of things to do in Whitby to suit all tastes, and plenty of walks to enjoy when you’ve exhausted the attractions. Read on to discover our top picks, or browse our Whitby holiday cottages now to find your perfect accommodation.

Whitby cottages

Skip to:

Frequently asked questions about Whitby

In a word, yes! There are oodles of things to do, and it’s not all about the abbey and Gothic influences. The narrow streets are crowded with unique shops, restaurants and pubs, as well as high-street brands. There are attractions aplenty and the harbour is a delight. In fact, there are hundreds of reasons why Whitby is worth a visit – read on to find out more.

Bram Stoker’s popular 1897 novel, Dracula, is what Whitby is most famous for today. However, throughout history, the town has had other famous connections, including being the place from which Captain Cook set sail on his adventure to the Pacific; the mining of Whitby jet; and of course, fish and chips!

Whitby is a lovely place to spend a day! A recommended itinerary for a day here would be to first grab a hearty English breakfast from the locals’ favourite, the Singing Kettle Cafe. This will fuel you for the climb up the 199 steps to visit the abbey, before heading back down to browse the shops and perhaps pick up a Whitby Jet souvenir. 

Duck into the Captain Cook Memorial Museum to find out about the famous explorer, then cross the bridge and pick up a portion of fish and chips from the Magpie Cafe en route to West Pier where you can enjoy your lunch while gazing out to sea.

A sunny afternoon can be spent relaxing on Whitby Sands, trying your luck in the amusements, before heading back to your Whitby holiday cottage to spruce up for a pub dinner in one of the town’s fine establishments.

Beaches in Whitby

Tate Hill Beach in Whitby - from above and looking back at the town

Whitby Tate Hill Beach

How close is Whitby to the beach? Why, it’s no distance at all, and there are several beaches in Whitby to choose from! Whitby Tate Hill Beach is small and sandy, lying just inside the entrance to Whitby Harbour, sheltered by East Pier. Dog friendly all year round, it’s a great spot to give your pup a break from walking on the cobbles. It’s close to the foot of the 199 steps which lead up to Whitby Abbey, so it’s good for a cooling paddle on a summer’s day after making the trek up and down.

Good to know

Dogs: Allowed all year round

Aerial view showing visitors enjoying a sunny day on Whitby Sands

Whitby Sands

Otherwise known as Whitby West Cliff Beach, Whitby Sands, as the name suggests, is a sandy beach sprawling along the sea-facing stretch, west of the harbour. It is the town’s most popular beach and can be accessed via a slipway next to West Pier, or along the sloping paved paths that extend along the seafront. There is a level promenade that runs the entire length of the beach, so even if it’s not beach weather, you can enjoy the views with a walk to blow the cobwebs away.

Good to know

Dogs: Not allowed May–September from West Pier to the east side of the beach steps (see signs)

Broad view of Upgang beach on a sunny day

Upgang Beach

West of Whitby Sands is a small, dog-friendly beach known as Upgang Beach. There are steps and steeply sloping walkways down to the beach from alongside Whitby Golf Course. Backed by rugged red cliffs, it’s much quieter than Whitby Sands, and perfect for summer evening zoomies, or bracing winter walks with your dog. We count this beach as one of the best things to do in Whitby for couples, as it’s a serene spot for a peaceful stroll with your partner.

Good to know

Dogs: Allowed all year round

Three images showing Sandsend Beach, including one of waves splashing up at the sea wall

Sandsend Beach

Sandsend Beach has its own car park, which you might like to make use of if you don’t fancy the just-under-2-mile walk from the harbour. It’s great for families, with zoned areas for bathing in the summer and rock pools to explore at low tide. The beach begins at the village of Sandsend, where you’ll find a local pub, cafe, and fish and chip shop. Stroll further from the village and you’ll leave the crowds behind and find the section of beach which is dog-friendly all year round.

Good to know

Dogs: Dogs are not allowed in a restricted area from May to September, but most of the beach stretching towards Whitby is dog-friendly all year round

Free things to do in Whitby

Pannett Park in Whitby

Pannett Park

Beautiful Pannett Park is a gem of an outdoor space in the heart of Whitby. Spanning 8 acres, it encompasses impeccably maintained gardens, an impressive children’s play area, and the Whitby Museum and Pannett Art Gallery. A highlight of the park is the Lily Pool and shelter, which is a peaceful spot for a picnic – arguably one of the most romantic things to do in Whitby for couples.

Whitby harbour at sunset, showing the two lighthouses

Whitby Harbour

At the estuary of the River Esk, Whitby Harbour sees constant activity from fishing boats, leisure craft and tour boats. Take a stroll out along West Pier or make your way over to East Pier, both of which have lighthouses, with West Pier’s being the tallest at 25 metres. Continue along West Pier Memorial Footbridge and you’ll feel like you’re walking right out to sea. If you’re wondering how long Whitby West Pier is, the entire length, including the extension, is approximately 455 metres.

There’s much to see around the rest of the harbour, too, including the RNLI Whitby Museum, The Whitby Endeavour mooring, and the marina.

The 199 Steps in Whitby - a view down towards the town at sunset, and a sunny view of the climb upwards

The 199 Steps

One of Whitby’s most iconic features are the 199 steps that lead up to the abbey, thought to originally have been built to test the mettle of Christian worshippers at St. Mary’s Church which also sits on the clifftop. There are strategically placed benches on the steps to allow you to pause for breath during the climb. Thank your lucky stars that you’re not having to carry a dead weight up with you, though, as that is exactly what coffin bearers of the past had to endure en route to their loved ones’ final resting place. The spectacular views from the top are worth the climb up the 199 steps, as is a wander around the abbey.

Computer generated image of the type of art you might expect to see in Pannett Art Gallery

Pannett Art Gallery

Set in the pretty surroundings of Pannett Park, Pannett Art Gallery showcases a collection of 19th and 20th-century artworks depicting a range of subjects, including local landscapes, seascapes and people. The two main collections of work are by the Staithes Group of Artists (local English impressionists from 1894–1909) and the Wetherill Collection of 19th and early 20th-century art. Changing exhibitions are hosted throughout the year, spotlighting the work of local art societies, groups and schools.

Good to know

Admission: Free

Opening times: End of January–mid December, daily 10am–4.30pm, last admission at 4pm

Whitby shopping street and interior of a shop


It’s not technically free if you’ve got a penchant for retail therapy, but a mooch around the shops is a must on a visit to historic Whitby. There are independent shops selling jewellery and items made from Whitby jet, places to pick up kippers and fresh fish, art galleries, gift shops and all the usual high-street favourites dotted throughout Whitby’s winding streets. Trot along the cobbles, dipping in and out of the shops which take your fancy, stopping along the way for a bite to eat or a quick drink in one of the many cafes.

Historic things to do in Whitby

Montage of images of various views of Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

Looked after by English Heritage, the atmospheric ruins of Whitby Abbey sit atop the cliff, enjoying incredible sea views from their towering vantage point. The ruins are steeped in 1,500 years of history, harbouring stories of Vikings and Saxons, and, of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The novelist was inspired by the dramatic ruins, which are described in his famous book along with other distinctive parts of Whitby. Today, you do have to pay to see Whitby Abbey, but your fee enables you to learn about its history through its museum and surviving architecture.

Good to know

Admission: Online tickets – adult £10, child £5.90, family of 2 adults and up to 3 children £25.90 (please note prices differ at peak times, please see website)

Opening times: Vary by season, please see website

Events: There are family-friendly events throughout the year, including Dracula-inspired performances and activities

Fossils you might expect to see in Whitby Museum

Whitby Museum

Showcasing an impressive array of Victorian artefacts and telling the history of Whitby from the Jurassic era to the present, Whitby Museum has something to inspire all visitors. If you’re looking for things to do in Whitby when you first arrive, the museum makes a fascinating first stop on your itinerary and gives you a great introduction to the town and its past. Whitby Museum is set in Pannett Park, alongside the Pannett Art Gallery.

Admission: Adult £7, under 18 free, student £5, carer free

Opening times: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–4.30pm, last admission 4pm

Captain Cook statue with Whitby Abbey in the background, and a close up of the statue with a seagull on his head

Captain Cook Memorial Museum

The famous explorer, Captain Cook voyaged through the Pacific, South Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The Captain Cook Memorial Museum, dedicated to his life and journeys, is set in a 17th-century house in which Cook lived as an apprentice to Captain John Walker. It has been meticulously restored, with many original features. Letters, accounts, models and artefacts relating to the voyages are on show, along with original artwork and the Florilegium Collection of botanical prints.

Admission: Adult £8.50, child under 16 free

Opening times: 11 February–31 March 10.30am–3pm; 1 April–6 November 9.45am–5pm

A lump of jet, similar to that found in Whitby

Whitby Jet Heritage Centre

A family business with three generations of Whitby jet carvers, Heritage Jet features an original Victorian workshop which was discovered in the attic of a derelict building and carefully relocated to preserve it. Workmen in the workshop would have carved ornate jewellery from Whitby jet, which is a deep, black stone, formed from prehistoric fossilised wood.

The stone is lightweight, and a high polish can be achieved, making it perfect for jewellery. Heritage Jet also have a shop, so you can go home with a little piece of Whitby. If you’re looking for things to do in Whitby for couples, this should be on your list, particularly if you want to treat your partner to a new bit of prehistoric bling.

Admission: Free, but prepare to be tempted by the beautiful jewellery!

Opening times: Daily 11am–4pm

Whitby lifeboat entering the harbour

RNLI Whitby Lifeboat Museum

Visit the RNLI Whitby Lifeboat Museum in a Victorian double boathouse which is packed with information and exhibits from famous wrecks and rescues. The Whitby lifeboat crew have been helping those in peril at sea since 1802, and unsurprisingly, have a whole host of interesting stories to share from over the years. Next door to the museum is a shop, where your purchases support the important work of the RNLI.

Good to know

Admission: Free

Opening times: Tuesday–Sunday 10am–4pm (subject to volunteer availability)

Transport days out in Whitby

Montage of images of North Yorkshire Moors Railway

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Heritage trains depart daily on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from Whitby Railway Station, taking you on a nostalgic journey to the market town of Pickering. Throughout the year, there are various events and themed journeys, not least the Santa Specials which depart from either Pickering or Grosmont. It’s a unique way to get out and explore the wider area, chuffing through wonderful scenery and travelling back in time to Pickering’s 1930s station. There’s a traditional market every Monday in Pickering, and other attractions include the castle, parish church, and Beck Isle Museum of Rural Life.

Good to know

Admission: Adult 1-stop ticket £12, child under 15 free (options for more stops available, please see website)

Opening times: Timetable varies, please see website

The Bark Endeavour ship in Whitby Harbour

A trip on The Bark Endeavour

The Bark Endeavour is an authentic replica of HMS Endeavour, the ship sailed by Captain James Cook on his 1768 expedition. It is approximately 40% of the size of the original ship and carries passengers on a memorable 25-minute journey around Whitby Harbour and along the coast to Sandsend.

Find your sea legs while admiring the stunning coastline and keeping an eye on the water as you might see the dolphins of Whitby, as well as porpoises and even whales. Sea shanties provide the soundtrack to the experience, and you’ll get to hear about the life of Captain Cook and the history of Whitby.

Good to know

Admission: £5 per sailor

Opening times: Sailing starts 10–10.30am most days April–October (weather and tide permitting)

Unusual things to do in Whitby

Whitby Harbour West Lighthouse

Whitby Harbour West Lighthouse

The 25-metre-tall Whitby Harbour West Lighthouse was built in 1858 and automated in 1992. The lighthouse, along with its sister on East Pier, helps guide seafaring vessels through the narrow harbour entrance to safety. Inside, Whitby Harbour West Lighthouse has 81 steps winding clockwise up to the lantern room where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the sea and town.

Good to know

AdmissionThere is a small fee to climb Whitby Harbour West Lighthouse, please enquire at the lighthouse itself

Opening times: Monday–Friday 11am–3pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am–6pm; school holidays 11am–5pm (occasionally closed, please check in advance)

Lightning-style sparks inside a glass globe

Museum of Victorian Science

This cool and quirky museum is one of the most unusual things to do in Whitby, or just outside, with visits by appointment only. Get acquainted with 19th-century physics on a guided tour of the museum, taking in fascinating items of science such as the electric telegraph, early x-rays and objects related to the discovery of the electron. Doctor Frankenstein’s Laboratory, with its climbing arc, lightning, thunder and sparks is a highlight. Experience live demonstrations and leave with a headful of knowledge about this exciting era of science.

Good to know

Admission: Please enquire

Opening times: By appointment only – 2-hour lecture and demonstrations

Please note: No visitors under 16

Whitby Whalebone arch with the abbey and headland in the distance

Whitby Whalebone Arch

Worth a quick look when you’re up on the headland visiting the Abbey is Whitby Whalebone Arch. It is one of the most unusual things to do in Whitby, not least because standing between the ginormous jaw bones of a whale is quite a strange experience. The whale bones were erected as a monument to the town’s important whaling history. The current bones are not the original pair, but a more recent replacement installed in 2003, originating from a Bowhead whale killed legally by native Alaskan Inuits.

Entertainment in Whitby

Montage of theatre performances on stage

Whitby Pavilion

Whitby Pavilion, the town’s entertainment and conference facility, puts on a whole host of fantastic shows and events throughout the year. Look up the programme during your visit and pick something to suit you. Music, drama performances, pantomimes, comedy and more can be enjoyed here.

Good to know

Admission: Ticket prices vary, please see website

Opening times: Box office open Monday–Friday 10am–3pm; cafe open Monday–Sunday 10am–3pm

Father and son, and two children having fun in an arcade

Funland and Pleasureland Amusements

Neighbouring amusement centres Funland and Pleasureland promise old-fashioned entertainment against a backdrop of clashing music and garish lights. An ever-popular seaside pursuit, perfect for spending pocket money or whiling away a wet hour or so, a visit to the arcades is a requisite for a fun Whitby holiday. Perched on the harbourside, close to the beach, it’s almost impossible to resist popping in, especially with children! As well as the usual arcade games and slot machines, there’s also adventure golf and bowling.

Good to know

Cost: However much you’re willing to part with!

Opening times: Funland – Tuesday–Thursday 9am–8.30pm, Friday–Sunday 9am–9pm, Monday 10am–8.30pm; Pleasureland – daily 10.30am–8pm

Close up of a golfer lining up a putt

Whitby Golf Course

Occupying a scenic clifftop position between Whitby and Sandsend, Whitby Golf Club welcomes visiting golfers all year round to play the 18-hole course. The bar and lounge offer a comfortable spot for post-round refreshments.

Good to know

Admission: Adult green fees start from £20 for low-season visitors, junior under 18 £10, adult twilight session from 1pm £15 – see website for full price list

Opening times: Tee times vary, please see website

Food and drink in Whitby

A kipper meal with egg and toast, and kippers hung up in the smokery

Fortune’s Kippers

As you’re heading up the cobbled street that passes the 199 steps, the air fills with the smell of smoked fish, which can only mean one thing: you’re close to Fortune’s Kippers. Established in 1872, the smokehouse and shop still uses traditional kipper smoking methods which have been handed down through five generations of the family. Queen Anne has been served kippers from here, as have James Martin, Mary Berry, Rick Stein and the Hairy Bikers, to name but a few of the famous names who’ve sampled the Whitby delicacy.

Good to know

Menu: Smoked herring and related products

Opening times: Monday–Saturday 9am–3pm, Sunday 9am–1pm (or until stocks sell out)

Fish and chip meal in paper with lemon

The Magpie Cafe

The Magpie Cafe has a reputation that precedes it, and for good reason. The well-renowned fish restaurant sees crowds queuing out the door for their supper, eager to get their fish and chip fix. You can eat in or take away, and the cafe has a licence too, so you can select the perfect accompaniment for your meal.

Good to know

Menu: Fish and chips, fish chowder and other seafood dishes, plus meat and vegetarian options

Opening times: Daily 11.30am–9pm, with some exceptions, please see website

Pizza and beer, and a beer tap in a brewery

Whitby Brewery

If you like ale, you’ll love Whitby Brewery’s self-proclaimed ‘quaffable creations’. Pizzas are served seven days a week to soak up some of your tipple, and other bar drinks are available, should you not fall for the array of ales on offer. Also, 45-minute brewery tours are available to discover the magic that goes into the making of the ale – tickets are £15 including three, third-of-a-pint tasters.

Good to know

Menu: Pizza, ale and bar drinks

Opening times: Daily 26 March–31 October 11am–9pm, 31 October–26 March Sunday–Thursday 11am–7pm, Friday and Saturday 11am–9pm

Thai food feast

Other places to eat in Whitby

You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat in Whitby. The best places are the ones which serve the food you like, so take time to have a wander around the streets and pick out the cafes and restaurants that speak to your foodie vibe. There are fish and chip shops and pubs aplenty, and sprinkled amongst them are flavours of the world including Indian, Italian, Thai and French cuisine.

Events in Whitby

Whitby abbey, a portrait photo of a lady in gothic dress, and a gravestone in the cemetery

Whitby Goth Weekend

Whitby Goth Weekend is an alternative festival for which Whitby has become famous. With over 100 stalls hosted at the indoor Bizarre Bazaar Alternative Market, it is one of the world’s most renowned Goth events. The family-friendly event sees thousands of people descend on the town, many dressed head to foot in gothic finery. There’s music from bands, and other events throughout the weekend, of which there are two in 2024 – one in April, one in November.

Good to know

When: 26–28 April 2024, and 1–3 November 2024

Where: The event focuses around the Bizarre Bazaar Alternative Market at Whitby Leisure Centre and Whitby Brunswick Centre

Man sitting at desk with a steampunk aesthetic

Whitby Steampunk Weekend

In a similar vein to Whitby Goth Weekend, Whitby Steampunk Weekend is a family-friendly event centred around the Steampunk aesthetic. Activities, presentations, demonstrations and market stalls make for a well-rounded weekend, which is repeated several times throughout the year. If you miss one, why not come along to the next?

Good to know

When: Various dates throughout the year, please see website

Where: Whitby Pavilion

Sailing boat in Whitby Harbour and crowd watching fireworks

Whitby Regatta

Historic Whitby Regatta is a jam-packed weekend full of maritime-based activity, including yacht and rowing races, a programme of entertainment, prize-giving and a firework display. A highlight at past events has been the RAF Red Arrows Aerobatic Display Team.

Good to know

When: 17–19 August 2024, 9–11 August 2025, 8–10 August 2026, 14–16 August 2027

Where: Various locations around Whitby

Morris dancing feet

Whitby Folk Week

Whitby Folk Week is a special celebration of music, dancing, and storytelling, with an eclectic mix of performances from youth groups, Morris dancers and dance teams of other folk genres. There are workshops in music, song, and dance, and more social events than you can shake a stick with bells on at!

Good to know

When: 17–23 August 2024

Where: Various venues in Whitby

Map of things to do in Whitby

Discover all of the things to do in Whitby on our handy map.

Please enable cookies via the cookie preference centre to view this content.

Book a stay in Whitby

Smugglers Cottage in WhitbySmugglers Cottage in Whitby | sleeps 4

With all the above things to do in Whitby, and so much more besides, the Yorkshire coastal town is a fantastic destination for a holiday. Explore the wistfully romantic abbey on a couples’ getaway, head for the family-friendly attractions with the kids or take in one of the famous events with a group of friends.

Whether you’re looking for accommodation in Whitby for the Goth Weekend, places to stay for Whitby Folk Week, or simply hunting for a peaceful coastal escape, you’re sure to find your perfect hideaway amongst our Whitby cottages.

Whitby holiday cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.