So, you’re thinking about visiting Whitby? We’re not surprised. Whitby is a wonderful, historic seaside town on the east coast of Yorkshire, surrounded by the idyllic countryside of the North York Moors National Park.
Beaches, cliff top walks and iconic historical sights are just some of the things that add to Whitby’s charm. It is also a great place for fossil fans to forage along the coastline searching for hidden ammonites, as well as beautiful jet the area is famous for.
In this post we share with you the best things to do when you visit Whitby!
1. Walk The Cleveland Way
Well, a section of it…
The Cleveland Way is a 109 mile walking route from Helmsley to Filey, with a large section of the trail following the Yorkshire coastline.
Picking up the trail close to Whitby Abbey, it isn’t long before you have breath-taking, panoramic views from the cliff tops. This little section isn’t too difficult, but we would definitely advise that you wear sensible footwear.
We have visited Whitby many times before, but had never fully appreciated everything it had to offer until we did this walk.
To follow in our footsteps, you can find the on route here on All Trails. We used this map to navigate our way to and from The Cleveland Way, but on return into Whitby town we followed the suggested path a little less strictly.
2. Fossil Hunt at Saltwick Bay
Saltwick bay is situated one mile to the east of Whitby. We would recommend combining your visit to Saltwick Bay with The Cleveland Way walk, as it is along the same route.
This beautiful, unspoilt beach is the most perfect little spot to while away the hours. You can take a stroll while scanning the loose rocks for fossils. It Is possible to find both ammonites and belemnites here, as well as Whitby Jet.
Be sure to pack a flask for when you’re ready to sit back and soak it all up!
Safety Note: It is important to stay away from the base of the cliffs due to frequent rock fall in this area. You are also advised to check the tide times so that you are not cut off from the access path.
3. Climb the 199 Steps
Situated close to St Mary’s Church and Whitby Abbey, the view from the top of these steps is quite something.
Dating to around 1340, it is believed they were used to test the Christian faith of those who wished to worship at the church.
The steps were later made famous after their mention in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula. After fleeing the wreckage of his ship, Dracula runs up the steps in the form of a black dog. If you visit at the right time, it will be easy to see why their mention in this gothic novel is very fitting.
TOP TIP: If you have arrived in the morning, you may want to take a quick detour to the 199 steps before heading elsewhere. The steps get very busy during the day so it is a good opportunity to take some photographs.
4. Take a Seat at Bram Stoker's Memorial Bench
As mentioned previously, Whitby and Dracula will forever be connected thanks to Bram Stoker’s Novel, meaning a visit to his memorial bench is a must.
The view from this bench is that which inspired Stoker to use Whitby as part of the setting for his novel.
A landscape like no other, it truly is a perfect location to admire the unique beauty of Whitby.
5. Enjoy an Ice Cream
You can’t visit a seaside town without indulging in a delicious ice cream. After winding your way through the quaint side streets, make your way towards Sprinkles.
If you are looking for vegan ice cream in Whitby then this is the place for you. We were blown away by how many delicious vegan flavours they had on offer!
6. Visit Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey was a 7th century Christian monastery that later became a Benedictine abbey in the 13thcentury, when the site was completely rebuilt in the gothic style.
Set on the headland high above Whitby, the Abbey is such a prominent part of the landscape.
Here you are able to follow in the footsteps of all those who have gone before, including artists, writers and religious leaders and be amazed by the architectural beauty of the ruins.
Click here for opening times and tickets.
Shop for Whitby Jet
When you wander through the narrow, cobbled streets of Whitby, you are sure to see this gemstone in many shop windows.
Whitby Jet is a deep and intense black colour and when polished has a lustrous shine. This makes it the perfect choice for setting into intricate and unusual pieces of jewellery.
When you see these perfectly finished items, it is hard to believe that the jet is actually 180 million years old, formed from the fossilised wood of the Araucaria tree.
If you would like to take home a souvenir to remember your time in this quaint seaside town, this would be the perfect keepsake.
8. Discover the Coastline on a Whitby Boat Trip
Whitby has a coastline rich with interesting, geological features. Its waters are frequented by a variety of wildlife including porpoise, dolphins and whales.
This makes a boat trip in Whitby an absolute must!
Each of the following tour operators offer a unique experience on the water.
This company provides something for everyone, from fun 20-minute trips to relaxing sunset cruises.
Hop on board their unmissable yellow boat, sail the North Sea and keep an eye out for wildlife.
Climb aboard the Bark Endeavour for a voyage around Whitby harbour and along the coast to Sandsend.
The Bark Endeavour is an authentic replica of HMS Endeavor, which was sailed by Captain James Cook in 1768. This trip is like a step back in time and allows you to follow in his path, reliving his life at sea.
Unfortunately, the whale watching trips have been cancelled for 2021, but this is an opportunity not to be missed and definitely one for the 2022 diary.
Lasting between 4-8 hours, these trips depart in the summer and autumn months. You will hopefully be able to see minke whales while far out at sea, although nature is unpredictable.
9. Take a Ride on a Steam Train
Have you ever seen Hogsmeade Station in the first Harry Potter film? Did you know that this train station is actually situated in Goathland and you can take a steam train there from Whitby?
The wonderful North Yorkshire Moors Railway operates between Whitby and Pickering and offers a delightful experience on a steam locomotive through the picturesque North Yorkshire moors.
10. Learn about Captain Cook and his time in Whitby
It is only on our own recent trip to Whitby that we learnt of Captain Cook’s time here. We were fascinated to discover that the British naval captain, navigator and explorer was once a trainee with a local shipping firm.
To uncover the full history of Captain Cook’s time in Whitby, pay a visit to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. The museum is situated inside the very same building where the young Cook would lodge in the attic of his employers’ home.
If you are short for time, you can always visit the Captain Cook Memorial, located on West Cliff. The views over Whitby harbour are spectacular.
Is Whitby Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! We ourselves have visited Whitby several times and wouldn’t hesitate to go back. As you can see from our list of the best things to do in Whitby, there are plenty of activities and attractions to include in your itinerary.
Getting to Whitby
Whitby does have a train station, although it is very small and only has one platform. Given that that only trains to use this station are those on the Esk Valley Line and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, it is unlikely that arriving via train would be your best option.
The roads into Whitby pass through the beautiful North York Moors. This makes for a very scenic drive and is one of the reasons we would recommend arriving by car. There are numerous car parks in Whitby, but we would recommend the Abbey Headland car park if you are following our itinerary. The car park is situated right next to Whitby Abbey and has toilet facilities – something that is always handy after a long drive.
Coastliner and National Express are bus companies that frequently pass through Whitby. To find out if arriving by bus would be a good option for you, visit this website.
You’re probably thinking “on foot, are you crazy?!”, but hear us out. As we said earlier, Whitby is located along The Cleveland Way. This means that if you decide to walk this route, staying in towns and villages along the way, then Whitby could quite easily be one of your stops!