The Yorkshire coast is, in my opinion, an underrated U.K holiday destination. Tourists flock to the Cornwall and Devon coastlines but the Yorkshire coast is less visited and yet it offers incredible diversity for visitors.
The Yorkshire coastline offers something for everyone, no matter what your age and interest.
Sandy beaches, Jurassic era fossils, nature reserves, bird and seal colonies, dramatic cliffs towering over quaint fishing villages; the Yorkshire coast has it all. With water sports, surfing, fishing and spectacular coastal hikes the Yorkshire coast has an attraction for everyone.
So where should you visit on the great Yorkshire Coast?
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Starting in the far north of the North Yorkshire coast you will find the charming village of Staithes.
A walk around this small fishing village is like stepping back in time. The picture perfect cobbled lanes with cottages huddled together dominated by surrounding cliffs makes Staithes appear like a film set from a period drama.
Enjoy cliff top walks along the Cleveland Way National Trail or hunt for fossils on the beach.
Kids may recognise Staithes as the setting for the CBBC television programme ‘Old Jack’s Boat.’
Staithes is best visited by car but can be accessed by local bus from Whitby.
Neighbouring Runswick Bay is a ‘must visit’ on any family trip to the Yorkshire coast.
This picturesque bay has an extensive sandy beach and was voted ‘Britain’s Best Beach’ by The Sunday Times in 2020. It is easy to see why this fabulous Yorkshire beach won this competitive accolade.
Kids will love exploring the rock pools, swimming in the child friendly sea or visiting the lifeguard station. Active families can enjoy coastal walks which offer stunning views of the North Yorkshire coast.
This is a deservedly popular spot so the beach can get busy in peak season so arrive early to bag your spot.
There is fee paying car parking available at the top of the hill from where it is a steep walk down to the beach. Cars are allowed to drive down into the village to drop off or pick up visitors but parking is limited and more expensive.
Sandsend is a small village a short distance north of Whitby (you can see Whitby Abbey from Sandsend).
The clean, sandy beach is popular with surfers, has several rock pools to explore and a promenade for wandering.
If you want to visit a quieter Yorkshire beach, Sandsend is the beach for you.
Plus, car parking charges here are a reasonable £4 per day.
Whitby is one of the largest coastal towns in Yorkshire. We love visiting Whitby for its huge sandy beach, colourful charming harbour and spectacular views.
Things to do in Whitby
Step back in time wandering the cobbled streets of Whitby’s old town, made famous as Dracula’s landing place in the gothic novel by Bram Stoker.
Climb the 199 stone steps from the old town to the cliff top ruins of Whitby Abbey. Don’t worry about the effort involved as you will stop regularly to take postcard perfect photos on the way up!
The 13th century ruins of Whitby Abbey perch on the clifftop overlooking the town below. These atmospheric ruins are an iconic Yorkshire landmark and are well worth the slog up the steps.
The English Heritage site consists of Abbey ruins, a visitors centre with a shop and a cafe. There are regular events and family friendly activities during the school holidays.
Learn about Whitby’s famous son, the explorer James Cook, in the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. This small but excellent museum also explores the history of whaling in Whitby.
Scour the beach for jet. As the name suggests, jet is a jet black fossil created from ancient Monkey Puzzle trees which became popular in jewellery making in Victorian times. Whitby and the surrounding area is a prime jet location and you will see several shops selling jet jewellery in Whitby.
Don’t leave Whitby without sampling one of the town’s famous fish and chip suppers. People come from all over Yorkshire just to get fish and chips in Whitby. Eat like a local and get a side of mushy peas too! The popular Quayside was the national winner of the Best Fish and Chip Takeaway in 2014.
Cost – Whitby Abbey costs £10 for adults, £6 for children and £26 for a family of five. English Heritage members are free. If you plan to visit Whitby Abbey and Scarborough Castle further along the coast, consider purchasing English Heritage membership. You will cover 50% of your annual membership just by visiting these two sites!
Captain Cook Museum costs £6.50 for adults, £3.50 for children and £15.50 for a family of four.
There will be a fee for car parking in Whitby.
Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay on The North Yorkshire Coastal Path
I would highly recommend hiking the stretch of coastal path between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay. The views are spectacular and on a sunny day, there is nowhere I would rather be.
The six mile route is easy to navigate and is well signposted and maintained. The path contains some steep up’s and down’s and stay well away from the edge as the Yorkshire coast is prone to erosion.
Once you pass Whitby’s squat white lighthouse, there are no facilities on route so bring plenty of water and snacks.
If you would like to hike this stunning coastal path – or any other coastal paths in the area – I highly recommend this comprehensive Ordnance Survey map.
Travelling to Whitby
The easiest way to get to Whitby is by car but there are a couple of more interesting alternatives.
Catch the Yorkshire Coastliner bus from Leeds or York rail station which crosses the Yorkshire Moors to arrive at Whitby. It is an epic trip for a public bus and has deservedly been voted ‘Britain’s Best Bus Route.’
Make sure you get the 840 Pickering/Whitby bus and not the 843 Malton/Scarborough bus. Check the latest timetable here.
From York, the route takes 2 hours 20 minutes and as this is a normal double decker bus, not a coach, there are no facilities on board. It is a stunning route but I find it challenging for my travel sick prone tummy.
Alternatively, travel to Whitby on the North York Moors Railway, a historic steam travel that departs from Pickering and crosses the Yorkshire Moors to Whitby.
A one day ticket allows you to hop on and off the train to visit scenic Levisham or Goathland, which was used as the setting for Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter movies. Or stay on the train and enjoy a full day out in Whitby. Check out the NYMR timetable here.
Robin Hood’s Bay
This small, car fee fishing village and sandy beach is one of my favourite places to visit on the Yorkshire coast. Robin Hoods Bay is a great day out with kids in Yorkshire, whatever the weather.
I love exploring the maze of cobbled lanes that are linked together with narrow pedestrian passageways. Old, white washed cottages huddle together adorned with colourful flowers and relics from the past. With each visit to Robin Hood’s Bay, I discover something I haven’t seen before.
Be prepared to get lost in the atmospheric and charming lanes of Robin Hood’s Bay. In fact, you will enjoy doing so!
There are several galleries, an old fashioned sweet shop, two pubs and a handful of restaurants and cafes. The free to enter Old Coastguard Station at the top of the jetty provides a fascinating insight into the geology of the area and history of the village.
Robin Hood’s Bay can get very busy with day trippers in peak season but the sandy beach is so big you will always be able to find a quiet spot.
The bay forms part of Yorkshire’s Jurassic coastline and fossils such as ammonites, belemnites and Devils Toenail can be found in Robin Hood’s Bay. We always spot an ancient treasure on our visits.
Avoid getting too close to the base of the cliffs as rock falls occur.
I would highly recommend staying the night in the village; the quirky and historic holiday lets here are amongst the best Yorkshire coastal cottages.
At night the dimly lit lanes lie quiet, the candlelit restaurants create a cosy glow and you can hear the waves crashing onto the beach as you walk around the village.
Cost – Visitors must park in the designated, fee paying car parks at the top of the village and walk down the steep road to the village and beach. The beach and coastguard station are free to access.
Ravenscar lies at the other end of Robin Hood’s Bay and is also on the North Yorkshire Coastal Path. It is the eastern end for the long distance Lyke Wake walk too.
The cliffs at Ravenscar rise vertically from the rocky beach and were once used as a signalling point in Roman times. The beach is popular with fossil hunters.
Visit the ruins of the National Trust owned alum works, once part of this area’s thriving fabric dyeing industry.
Ravenscar’s main attraction is its seal colony. Grey and Common Seals live here all year round and have their pups here in June and July (Common Seals) and November (Grey Seals).
Follow the signs from the clifftop Raven Hall Hotel to reach the colony below but please adhere to the suggested viewing distances. Don’t get too close to the seals as the animals get distressed when people, and especially dogs, get too close.
Scarborough is a popular, sprawling Yorkshire seaside resort with lots of attractions for families. With good road and rail links, Scarborough is one of the most visited locations on the Yorkshire coast.
Things to do in Scarborough
South Bay Scarborough
This is the closest beach to the town centre and it is the best beach in Scarborough for swimming.
The long strip of sandy beach is adjacent to a busy road lined with arcades and is easily reached by car or by train.
Nestled among the flashing lights of the arcades is Scarborough’s funicular railway. This 87 metre long railway was the first funicular in England when it opened in 1873. Kids will enjoy the short ride up the hill – parents will enjoy avoiding the walk.
Funicular railway cost – Return adult ticket £1.60, children £1
North Bay Scarborough
North Bay is a long stretch of pebbly beach that often attracts huge waves which crash onto the promenade. This is a quieter beach than South Bay and is where you will find Scarborough’s often photographed colourful beach huts.
North Bay is also home to Scarborough’s Sea Life Centre known for its colony of playful Humboldt penguins and large, walk through ocean tunnel.
Visit the Otter River, Bay of Rays and the country’s only Seal hospital. There are educational talks and feeding sessions daily.
Families can visit the Sea Life Centre using the North Bay Heritage Railway, one of the oldest miniature steam railways in the world.
At the railway starting point, there are the additional attractions of a high ropes Sky Trail, Water Chute and pedalo boats.
Sea Life centre cost – A on the day ticket costs £19.50 for adults, children under 3 years are free. Book online in advance and save 20% on your ticket.
The Heritage Railway day pass costs £4.20 for adults, children are £3.20. The ride to the Sea Life Centre takes just 15 minutes. See the Heritage Railway website for additional activity costs.
Alpamare Water Park
Kids will love this enormous aqua complex which is one of Yorkshires’ newest attractions. I love Alpamare because it has a heated outdoor pool – a rare warm swim on the Yorkshire coast!
Alpamare Water Park has four adrenaline pumping water slides, an infinity pool, a heated outdoor pool, wave pool and a splash zone for non swimmers. There is also an onsite spa for the less energetic.
Cost – A timed entry ticket costs £21 for adults, £17 for children, £66 for a family of four. Tickets are valid for four hours.
The ruins of Scarborough Castle lie on a windswept clifftop dominating the town’s skyline.
Families can explore the ruins of the 16 acre English Heritage site which offers fantastic views of Scarborough and the Yorkshire coastline.
There is an interesting exhibition with artefacts explaining the history of this 3,000 year old site, the castle and the town. This is a great spot for a family picnic with a view.
Cost – Adults £7.90, children £4.70, family of five £20.50. Free to English Heritage members.
If you enjoy visiting historic properties such as Scarborough Castle, English Heritage membership is worth considering. Up to six children are free with each adult membership so a one year membership could save you a lot of money. You only need to visit Scarborough Castle five times for the membership for a family of four to pay for itself!
Check out other English Heritage properties in Yorkshire here.
Cycle the Cinder Track
This innovative attraction is a 21 mile long off road track between Scarborough and Whitby. The route follows a disused rail track and is now used by walkers, horse riders and cyclists.
I would recommend hiring a bike and riding the Cinder Track. It is an easy, pleasurable bike ride (it is NOT an off road mountain bike course) and is aimed at families and leisure cyclists. Some road crossings are necessary and there are facilities available on route.
Click here for the latest map and information.
It is a undulating route will take around 3 hours to cycle one way.
Take a boat trip
Scarborough is a good place to visit if you wish to take a boat trip into the North Sea or to view the North Yorkshire coastline.
Choose between a thrilling speed boat ride or a leisurely cruise around Scarborough Bay or further afield to view local bird colonies. Fishing trips are also available.
Kids will love the family friendly ‘The Hispaniola’, a pirate ship which takes visitors on short trips around South Bay. You cannot miss the ship moored on on Scarborough sea front.
Cost – The Hispaniola cost £3 per person
Don’t leave Scarborough without buying a soft whippy ice cream.
Scarborough is famous for its delicious, creamy ice cream and I think the lemon ice cream at ‘The Harbour Bar’ is THE best ice cream ever.
This windy beach is the place to go if you are looking for adrenaline water sports.
Scarborough Bay Surf School are based here and offer surf lessons, stand up paddle boarding and two hour coasteering sessions.
The club also offer innovative eco coasteering sessions where your guide will provide information on the flora, fauna and geology of the Yorkshire coastline whilst you climb and jump off it!
Filey is a charming Yorkshire seaside resort and is an ideal location for those who prefer quieter seaside towns.
This Yorkshire coastal town is blessed with a superb sandy beach. At low tide, the beach is a quarter of a mile wide and nearly seven miles long so you will always be able to find a quiet spot on this glorious beach.
Filey beach has received many accolades and was voted into the top ten of the best beaches in the world by TripAdvisors’ Travellers Choice Awards’ in 2019.
Take a walk to, or on, Filey Brigg, a long narrow peninsula about a mile north of the town centre. Watch the tide if you walk along the beach to Filey Brigg; high tide is high and you may get cut off.
Explore Filey Museum, go bird watching at Filey Dams Nature Reserve or relax listening to a band in the Crescent Gardens.
I love Hunmanby Gap. On a sunny day, it competes with the best beaches I have visited around the world.
The ‘gap’ is the name of the beach, Hunmanby village is not on the beach so make sure you follow signs to the beach, not the village. Park in the fee paying field car park at the top of the gap and walk down the slope to this expansive sandy beach.
The beach is popular with dog walkers year round and there is a small cafe and toilets here.
We visit Reighton several times a year as our family likes wide open quiet beaches and my husband rates it for fossil hunting.
Reighton Sands is best accessed from the car parks at, and just outside, Haven Reighton Sands holiday park.
It is a steep walk down to the beach but a fee paying road train operates from the holiday park to the beach during summer months. There is a seasonal ice cream shop but no cafe and no toilets.
Like Filey, be aware of the tide times at Hunmanby Gap and Reighton Sands as high tide comes up very high on the beach and you may get cut off.
Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve on the Yorkshire Coast
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve is a bird lovers paradise.
Over half a million seabirds nest on Bempton’s chalk cliffs between March and October. Puffin’s are the main attraction.
Visitors can view the colonies from six viewing platforms and enjoy self guided trails. Children can borrow ‘Discovery Backpacks’ from the visitors centre which contain useful binoculars, a bird identification book and a bug pot.
If you wish to view the birds from a different angle, boat cruises to view the colonies depart from nearby Bridlington (May to September only).
Cost – Nature Reserve tickets cost £6 for adults, first child is free, additional children £3
Flamborough Head is an 8 mile long promontory of chalk cliffs nestled between Filey and Bridlington.
Visit the free to enter Yorkshire Wildlife Trust ‘Living Seas Centre’ at South Landing. Our kids loved this centre, it is well worth a stop. Join a guided walk, rock pooling session or shore search.
Between April and July, take a one hour Living Seas Safari boat trip departing from North Landing at nearby Flamborough Cliffs Nature Reserve. These trips use a traditional Yorkshire fishing coble and provide fantastic close up views of nesting puffins, razorbills and kittiwakes.
Make a stop at Flamborough’s famous 19th century lighthouse. Tours are available to discover the history and workings of this functional lighthouse.
Cost – Living Seas Centre is free to enter.
Lighthouse – Adults £4.70, children £3.70, family of four £15.
Known as ‘Brid’ to locals, Bridlington is a busy harbour town offering visitors two beaches. North beach is a huge expanse of sand whereas South beach is more pebbly.
If you can drag yourself away from the beach, kids will enjoy the Bondeville Model Village and The Bird of Prey and Animal Park. Historic Sewerby Hall and Gardens are also worth a visit. The site offers a small zoo and pretty woodland walks.
The Beachcomber Blue open top bus departs from Bridlington and travels along the seafront stopping at major attractions on the way. The route runs all the way to Flamborough Cliffs.
The North Yorkshire Coastal Path
The North Yorkshire Coastal Path forms part of the 109 mile long Cleveland Way National Trail. The North Yorkshire coast section is a fantastic stretch offering incredible views of the dramatic Yorkshire coastline, secluded sandy coves and rocky bays.
This elevated coastal path is well maintained and well signposted. It is not technically challenging but has several steep up and down sections. Know that the edge is unfenced and prone to erosion so don’t approach the soft cliff edges.
This stunning coastal path is doable with kids but I would recommend keeping children close.
My favourite section is the 6 mile hike from Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay, which passes Whitby’s squat white lighthouse on route. Weary walkers can catch a bus from Robin Hoods Bay back to Whitby (or vice versa). This map is helpful for this route.
Alternatively, hike the scenic 7 mile circular trail starting in gorgeous Runswick Bay to the tiny village of Staithes.
Keen bird watchers should hike the 8 mile circular trail starting from Flamborough around Flamborough Head. This is the map you need for this area.
Visitors to the Yorkshire coastline are spoilt for choice and will never be bored! I guarantee you will leave planning to return.
Are you ready to discover the Yorkshire Coast?