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Whitby Travel Guide

Our Whitby Travel Guide includes recommended places to visit and things to do, accommodation options, tips and more for this beautiful English seaside town. Everything you need to plan your visit and essential reading for any visitor to Whitby!

Plan your visit to Whitby

The popular seaside town of Whitby is located on the east coast of England, in the scenic county of North Yorkshire. Its beautiful coastline, historic streets with quirky shops and charming picturesque harbour area make this a popular destination for visitors from all over the world.

Attractions include the ruins of the historic Whitby Abbey which was founded in the 7th century and is considered to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous novel, Dracula overlook the town and harbour. 

Whitby also has a rich fishing heritage with a vast history of commercial fishing. Excellent seafood options abound in the town with one highly recommended option the famous Magpie Cafe for its award-winning traditional fish and chips. There are a multitude of restaurants and cafes to choose from though so if you miss out on a reservation at the Magpie don’t despair.

Perhaps one of Whitby’s most famous residents was the famous navigator and explorer, Captain James Cook who was born in the town. The notable attractions dedicated to Captain Cook are the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, which celebrates his life and achievements and the Whitby Museum, which showcases the area’s natural history and cultural heritage.

Whitby Travel Guide view over Whitby.

Whitby travel guide – Visiting Whitby FAQ’s

When is the best time of year to visit Whitby?

The best time to visit is really whenever you want to! Whitby represents an all-year-round attraction for families and couples alike with many and varying interests.

Summer visits are always popular, June-August when the weather is generally warmer and sunnier.  This is the ideal time for enjoying the beach and leisurely exploring the town during the longer daylight hours. However, it is also the busiest time, with a high concentration of tourists and of course higher prices for accommodation.

Spring and Autumn in the UK (March-May and September-November) also attract many visitors outside the summer visitors.  These are great times to visit with often quieter streets and attractions. The British weather can be a bit more unpredictable but the temperature can still be pleasant on the best days. Accommodation can also be cheaper this time of the year.

The winter months, December-February though much colder, windier and often wetter still attract many visitors. The town is decorated with festive lights and there are several events taking place, including the Whitby Goth Weekend and the Christmas Festival. Accommodation cost is also at its lowest.

All year round Whitby has its own unique charm and there’s always something to enjoy in this beautiful seaside town.

Read more about the best time to visit the UK in my detailed guide.

How many days do you need in or around Whitby?

A quick visit for a day trip usually involves a visit to the historic Abbey ruins and sampling some fish and chips whatever the time of year! A walk along the beach and harbour area and shops are popular if the weather is fine.

For a more leisurely visit a 2 or 3 day stay like a weekend you can explore more of the town and surroundings including the local streets and shops. This could include the Captain Cook Memorial Museum and also some of the area’s beautiful scenery.

Also, an option would be the Whitby sightseeing hop-on/off bus.

For a longer visit, such as a week or so, you can really immerse yourself in the local culture and history. You can take day trips to nearby attractions such as the North York Moors National Park, the seaside towns of Scarborough and Filey, and the historic city of York.

How do you get around Whitby and surrounding areas?

Whitby is a relatively small town, so walking around is quite easy even though the town is relatively hilly with steps connecting different parts of the town. Walking is a great way to explore Whitby’s historic streets, alleys, and landmarks.

  • Sightseeing Bus

Whitby Sightseeing bus, the Whitby Town Tour, offers visitors a guided tour of the town’s most popular landmarks and attractions with audio commentaries available to learn about the town’s history and culture.  The tour takes about an hour and operates from April to late September. Tickets available on the day or online and multiple languages are catered for.

This is a hop-on-hop-off service taking around 1 hour and a great way to see the town’s highlights without having to walk long distances. Also takes visitors to the Abbey ruins.

  • Whitby Buses

Buses around Whitby include the reasonably priced Arriva bus services and the Coastliner Bus.  Day/week tickets are available or single/return tickets depending on choice.

  • Public transport 

Visitors without a car to explore the beautiful surrounding areas are possible and alternate options are available.

A regular bus service connects Whitby with nearby villages, towns, and cities. The main bus station is located in the town centre, and you can purchase tickets at the station or online.

  • Train

Whitby has a train station located in the town centre for national rail services, with regular services to nearby towns and cities.  

  • North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR)

The Heritage NYMR runs through the North York Moors national park with a station at Whitby.  This is a great excursion from Whitby or an alternate way to arrive in Whitby catching the service at the station at Pickering.

Refer to the NTMR website for up-to-date information for timetables and standard or first-class ticket travel for single or return journeys.

Whitby train poster.

What is the best way to travel to Whitby from London?

🚆 By train

Whitby has a train station located in the town centre for national rail services, with regular services to nearby towns and cities such as York and further afield to London. Train travel can be a great way to explore the area’s scenic countryside. The Esk Valley Line runs through to Middlesborough.

  • From London
    • Take the train from London Kings Cross Railway Station via the East Coast Main (Train) to York or Darlington then on to a branch line. The overall trip takes around 5 hours to reach Whitby with a train change or changes depending on the service taken.
  • Train tickets from London and York

The price of tickets is variable depending on the day/time of travel and type of ticket purchased and how soon in advance of travel. National railcards options and rail passes are also available.

TipIf this is your first time catching a train in the UK read our complete guide to UK train travel which includes all the information you need to know to make travelling around the UK by rail a relaxing and stress-free experience.

🚗 By car (road trip option)

  • Around 5 hours drive between London and Whitby. Depending on the London start location and stop points in between and the route taken.
  • Takes approximately 4 hours to drive the 200 miles. 
  • Alternatively, take the train to York and hire a car from there and drive the incredibly scenic route.

By coach

National Express coaches from London Victoria coach station take around 8 hours 40 minutes with a change of coach at Leeds.  The cost is around £23 per person.

Alternatively, take the train to York and catch the Coach from York via Leeds to Whitby.

Attractions, places to visit & things to do in Whitby

There is much to see and do around Whitby all year round including:

  • Whitby Abbey: Ruins of a 7th-century monastery with stunning views of the town and coastline. It is run by English Heritage.
  • Captain Cook Memorial Museum: A history museum dedicated to the life and voyages of famous explorer Captain Cook.  The house where James Cook was apprenticed in 1746.
  • Whitby Harbour: Picturesque harbour with fishing boats, seafood restaurants, and scenic views of the town and abbey.
  • St. Mary’s Church: Historic church which dates from around 1110 with connections to Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a possible inspiration. Also stunning views from the churchyard.
  • Whitby Beach:  A beautiful wide, sandy beach with colourful beach huts and a great view of the abbey and town.
  • The 199 Steps: The well-known church steps, steep staircase leading up to the abbey, with stunning views of the town and coastline.
  • Pannett Park: A Victorian-era public park with themed gardens, Whitby museum, and a sunken pond.
    • Whitby Museum: A museum with exhibits on local history, fishing, and the town’s connections to Captain Cook and Dracula.
  • North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR): A heritage steam railway that runs from Whitby to Pickering, passing through the stunning Yorkshire Moors. (For Harry Potter fans,  Goathland station was also the station used as the setting for the fictional Hogsmeade Station)
  • The Whalebone Arch: A distinctive arch made from replica jawbones of a whale (the original was erected in 1853), located at North Terrace.  Symbolises the town’s association with its whaling history.
  • Whitby Goth Weekend (WGW): A popular twice-yearly festival celebrating goth culture, fashion, and music in the town’s historic venues and streets.
  • Whitby Pavilion: An entertainment venue with a theatre, cinema, and concert hall, hosting various art events throughout the year.
  • Robin Hood’s Bay: A charming village 6 miles south of Whitby, with narrow steep streets, historic cottages, and stunning views of the coast. 
  • Fortunes Kippers: Traditional Whitby smokehouse kippers, family-run business since 1872.  Award-winning, locally famous and beyond for high-quality kippers. A must-try!

Tickets, tours and experiences in Whitby

Walking Tours of Whitby

There are several excellent walking tours available in Whitby with a variety of themes to choose from. 

  • Whitby Walks: Whitby Ghost/Dracula Walk
    • Take a tour of Whitby’s most haunted sites including a journey through the locations mentioned in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. The walk includes the church 199 steps to the churchyard, Abbey and other places around Whitby.
  • Guided Distillery Tour with Gin Tasting – Go behind the scenes to discover how artisan gin is distilled on this guided tour of a gin distillery in Whitby. See the copper still, learn about the history of gin, and sample award-winning spirits.
  • Audio Guide with Lifetime App Access Discover the legends and landmarks of Whitby at your own pace on an audio tour of the historic town. Learn about sites like Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Whitby Abbey, and the Endeavor Experience.

Accommodation in Whitby

There is every kind of accommodation option available in Whitby and the surrounding areas to suit all ages, budgets and preferences.

These include budget and luxury hotels with family-friendly options and bed & breakfasts.  Also on offer are self-catering and camping accommodation alternatives if you choose.

More special stays – Accommodation Guide for England

Where to eat in Whitby

Whitby is well-known in the Uk and overseas for its seafood, especially its fresh fish and chips of which there is a huge number of places to sample the food.

There are also many other great places to eat in the town, not just for fish and chips. 

Here are some of the best and most famous:

  • The Magpie Cafe:  Possibly the most well-known, this award-winning cafe is famous for its fresh fish and chips. The Magpie Cafe is located in a historic building by the harbour and has a great view of the sea. At peak times it is a good idea to book.
  • The Moon and Sixpence: This is a popular restaurant in a great location and bar in the heart of Whitby, serving a range of dishes made with fresh local produce. The Moon and Sixpence has a lively atmosphere and is a great place for a cocktail or a meal.
  • The White Horse and Griffin: This well-situated historic hotel also has a popular restaurant serving modern seafood British cuisine. The menu features locally sourced ingredients and changes seasonally.
  • The Marine: This is a welcoming contemporary seafood restaurant located in a modern building by the harbour. The Marine serves a range of seafood dishes as well as meat and vegetarian options.
  • The Quayside: This is a family-run restaurant located on Pier Road, overlooking the harbour. The Quayside serves fresh seafood as well as meat and vegetarian dishes, and has a children’s menu. Try the homemade gelato for a treat!
  • The Humble Pie ‘n’ Mash Shop: This is a traditional 16th Century pie and mash shop located on Church Street. The Humble Pie ‘n’ Mash Shop serves homemade pies, daily baked on the premises,  and other classic British dishes including vegetarian options. 
  • Trenchers Restaurant: This is a family-run seafood restaurant located on New Quay Road. Trenchers Restaurant serves a range of fresh seafood dishes, including fish and chips, as well as meat and vegetarian options.
  • Abbey Wharf: This is a popular restaurant and bar with a panoramic view located in a converted warehouse by the harbour. Abbey Wharf serves a range of dishes made with local ingredients, including fresh seafood.  Dog friendly and also has live entertainment.
  • The Fisherman’s Wife: This is a traditional fish and chip shop well located on Khyber Pass near the whalebone arch. The Fisherman’s Wife serves fresh fish, chips, and other classic British dishes.
  • Royal Fisheries: This is another popular fish and chip shop located on Baxtergate. Royal Fisheries serves fresh fish, chips, and other classic British dishes and is known for its friendly service.
  • The Duke of York: This cosy Harbour view pub is an excellent restaurant if you want something more traditional with the atmosphere of a good old-fashioned British pub. They have a wide range of ales and ciders that you can sample as you take a look at the range of memorabilia and historical items on the walls to enjoy.

Books set in Whitby

Whitby has either been the inspiration or the setting for numerous books, including:

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker Perhaps the most famous is this gothic horror novel featuring Whitby in several scenes. These include the arrival of the eponymous vampire in the form of a black dog.
  • The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis This children’s book is set in Whitby and tells the story of three children who uncover a plot by a group of witches to summon an ancient evil.
  • The Edge of Dark by Pamela HartshorneThis historical fiction novel is set in both modern-day and 16th-century Whitby, and follows the story of a woman who discovers a link to her ancestors during a visit to the town.
  • The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert This horror novel features several scenes set in Whitby, where the main character tries to uncover the dark secrets of a haunted house.
  • The Whitby Murders by J.R. Ellis This mystery novel is set in modern-day Whitby where a detective investigates a series of murders connected to the town’s history and legends.
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanThis children’s fantasy novel features several scenes set in a fictionalised version of Whitby, where a boy named Bod, encounters ghosts and other supernatural beings.
  • Whitby Vampyrrhic by Simon Clark This horror novel is set in Whitby and features a group of vampires who prey on the town’s residents.
  • Widdershins by Helen Steadman This historical fiction novel is set in 17th-century Whitby and tells the story of a woman accused of witchcraft.

Enjoy your visit to Whitby

This guide will have provided inspiration plus practical information to help plan your visit to Whitby. You will find more inspiration and ideas to help plan your travels around England in these travel guides: