24 Hours in Whitby, England – Must See Sights + Top Tips

The 199 steps in Whitby

In 2024, the Caravan and Motorhome Club are running a Read, Tour, and Explore Campaign to encourage people to read more and visit places associated with book settings. We aim to help promote authors, both old and new, while providing suggestions on which locations to explore that, at one time, offered inspiration to those who went on to put pen to paper. 

Whitby, with its traditional fishing harbour in the North of England, is a popular seaside town in Yorkshire. It is perhaps best known for its connection to the classic gothic horror story Dracula, written by Bram Stoker and published in 1897. 

Split by the River Esk, on one side, you have a beautiful, wide stretch of beach, lined with brightly coloured beach huts for hire, while on the other, you can climb up the East Cliff to the historic Whitby Abbey, its most prominent landmark, with views overlooking the North Sea and farmers’ fields that reach as far as the eye can see.

Bram Stoker isn’t the only writer to have found inspiration in Whitby’s landscape, though. Caedmon, known as the first English poet, lived there. Lewis Carroll visited many times, and Charles Dickens loved it so much he encouraged others, including Wilkie Collins, author of The Woman in White, to holiday in the area. Outside of literature, Captain Cook moved to Whitby, taking on an apprenticeship with a local shipping firm before joining the Navy and setting sail for the Southern Hemisphere. 

 The History of Whitby

Unsurprisingly, the East side of Whitby is first featured in the history books, with the Abbey that dates back to 656 AD. Heading down into town, the history of the buildings around Church Street dates back to the 1390s, while many of the cottages on this side of the harbour date back to the 15th century. It is here, with its narrow alleyways and side streets, that smugglers would hide out with their contraband goods. Queen Victoria also made Whitby popular after wearing the famous Whitby Jet, a semi-precious organic gemstone often mistaken for coal, following the death of Prince Albert.

Whitby was a fishing settlement for many years, developing into a port known for its whaling—thankfully not something it promotes today—and its shipbuilding before moving on to the manufacturing of Jet jewellery.

Today, the town boasts a year-round tourism industry and is favoured not only in the summer months because of its fantastic beach that stretches all the way to Sandsend but also for its festivals, including Goth Fest, which happens twice a year, and its Steampunk weekends.

 24 hours in Whitby Itinerary

Whitby is a town that could see in just a few hours or it could take you a couple of days to explore fully. We have created the perfect 1-day walking itinerary for you. We provide you will a list of the top sights and the most effective way to cram as much as possible into your 24 hours.

Day 1 Whitby Itinerary

Enjoy breakfast at Java on Flowergate

Java Coffee Shop on Flowergate in Whitby is the perfect breakfast location when visiting the town.

Java Coffee Shop

This independent coffee house offers a wide range of breakfast options, including many veggie and vegan choices, and serves some of the best coffee in town. Whether you try the traditional full English, a breakfast roll, one of the many specialist dishes on offer, or a delicious-looking pastry, the portions are substantial, so you will not be left hungry.

Breakfast at Java Coffee shop in Whitby on Flowergate

Head for the beach

Even if the weather is not at its best, take a walk along this vast beach. Start by heading up past the Pavilion to the far end, where the brightly coloured beach huts are situated, enjoying the views over the nearby Yorkshire hills as you go. From here, head back along the sands to the mouth of the harbour, looking out for fossils as you go while observing the nesting birds on the sedimentary rock formations lining the coast.

Whitby beach stretches for miles.

Seek out Bram Stoker’s Bench

Once back on firm ground, walk back along the harbour wall, taking note of all the fish and chip offerings available, which are plentiful, towards the end of the arcade area before taking a left up the stairway. From here, you will need to follow the path and climb a further flight of stairs to a row of benches that look out across the bay to the East Cliff and the Abbey ruins. Here, you will find a bench dedicated to the famous writer himself. It is believed that Bram Stoker spent many hours sitting at that spot while he was in Whitby writing about the world’s most famous Vampire.

Bram Stoker's Bench on the hill overlooking the water to the Whitby Abbey

Bram Stoker’s Bench has a great view across to the Abbey

Follow the blue plaques around the town

With 24 plaques dotting around town highlighting the most notable figures of Whitby and the places connected to them, Whitby Civic Society are hoping that those interested in learning more about this seaside location will take the time to search for them. You can find out more about the location of each of these plaques at the Tourist Information Centre, where maps are currently on sale for just £3 (2024).

Why not spend some time wandering the streets in search of the houses where the famous have stayed?

Lunch at Sherlocks

No bookworm can visit the town without stopping at Sherlock’s coffee shop for either lunch or coffee and cake. Outside this unimposing café dating back to the 1600s, you will find a bike leaning against the façade. With three different rooms, you will see walls lined with books, grand old fireplaces, tables tucked into little nooks, and even a deer-stalker hat on display; this is the perfect place to rest after walking the hills of Whitby sightseeing and shopping.

Sherlocks Coffee Shop can be found of Flowergate

Sherlocks on Flowergate

Take in the Dracula Experience

Dracula at the Dracula Experience in Whitby

Inside The Dracula Experience

Found on the waterfront, this immersive experience, currently priced at £5 per adult, and £4 per child (2024), provides unique insights into the Dracula story and how it is connected to Whitby while inside, not only will you learn more about Bram Stoker’s Vampire but also the real Dracula of Transylvania, Vlad Tepes, and the films that followed.

The Dracula Experience provides insight into Bram Stoker's most famous character.

Visit the Whitby Bookshop and pick up a book by a local author

After refuelling, it is time to head across the bridge to the East side of town, where the narrow streets are crammed full of pubs, shops, and the museum dedicated to Captain Hook.

On this side of the water, there are plenty of independent shops to wander around, including fudge shops, Jet jewellery stores, the Whitby glass shop, and a couple of bookshops.

The Whitby Bookshop

Advise for all book lovers is to make sure you step over the threshold of The Whitby Bookshop and take in the inviting cream interior of this two storey shop filled to the brim with a wide selection of books. In particular, for those who love to read about the area they are visiting, one section is dedicated to local authors. While there is a large selection of Dracula editions, you will also find novels that feature the local area by many authors, including Ruth Estevez, C.M. Vassie, Leo Walmsley, and Robin Jarvis.

Climb the 199 steps

By this point in your trip, chances are you will have spied these famous steps from across the harbour, and while they do look impressive from afar, up close, the 199 steps to the church and Abbey at the top are not for everyone. For those who don’t want to climb, there is also a rather steep hill to the side of the steps that people were attempting during our visit, or there is a car park at the top should you prefer to drive up. Alternatively, you could jump on a bus tour of Whitby, which will drive up the hill and past the Abbey. For Bram Stoker fans, these are the steps that Dracula climbed after his ship, the Demeter, ran aground on the sands of Tate Hill.

At the top of this stairway, you will find the 12th-century Church of St Mary’s, which is home to Caedmon’s cross on the west side of the churchyard and the grave of the nursery rhyme character Humpty Dumpty. In Dracula, this is also the graveyard where Mina and Lucy spend time listening to tales of folklore and legends and where Lucy is found the night she sleepwalks.

Visit the Abbey

Whitby Abbey, an iconic landmark in North Yorkshire

Image provided by iSaw Company

No trip to Whitby would be complete without a visit to this memorable sight. Perched on the top of the East Cliff, this Benedictine Abbey ruin was once a monastery where the poet Caedmon cared for the animals and is now one of Yorkshire’s most popular tourist attractions.

Today, you can roam around the ruins of this 1500-year-old Abbey and visit the museum, where you will learn more about Viking raids, the Saxons, and how Whitby inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. A tour of the Abbey will cost £15 per adult/ £9 per child if purchased on the day or £12.50/£7.50 if booked online in advance (2024).

Early evening drinks at the Whitby Brewery

Before heading back down into town, follow the pathway around the wall of the Abbey until you find the Whitby Brewery. In the warmer months, enjoy a locally brewed beer in the courtyard, while in the winter months, head inside to the large covered brewery hall, where live music is also played most weekends. We both enjoyed a pint of Smuggler’s Gold, but there are many others to choose from, including ciders and a small selection of wines and spirits.

If you find the brewing process interesting, they also offer tours, and if you are feeling a bit peckish, they also offer pizzas cooked right in front of you in a wood-burning oven.

Dinner at the Magpie Café

For those wanting to sample the specialities of Whitby, no visit to the town would be complete without a stop at the Magpie Café, which offers every possible option for a fish supper. Whitby long ago became famous for its scampi, but here you can choose everything from oysters and mussels to kippers, woof (something we have never seen on a menu before and a typical option in the North of England apparently), or a traditional chippy tea.

The Magpie Cafe is a institution in Whitby and a must visit for a chippy tea

If you are visiting during the busier months, it is best to book in advance because this place gets busy fast. Spread over numerous floors, ask for a table on the second floor with a window, if possible, for a great view of the Abbey.

An evening exploring the pubs of Whitby

If you stay either in town or nearby, there are plenty of pubs, many offering live music to visit after it gets dark. 

From the Magpie Café, walk back along the waterfront to The Ship, which offers lovely views out over the harbour, before heading back into the side streets and The Esk Vaults, which sits near The Greedy Pig, which offers a selection of different beers and ciders on tap.

Across the bridge, there are many quirky-looking pubs to enjoy, including The White Horse & Griffin and the Black Horse Inn, which also offers a Yorkshire take on Tapas (Yapas) or the Fleece. On this side of the water, you also have The Green Dragon on Grape Lane, which claims to have more than 250 craft beers available; however, this does close early each evening.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have just a few hours or days, you will not be bored in Whitby. Even if you are not a fan of horror stories, Whitby has a wealth of history to explore, including the Captain Cook Museum, the RNLI Museum, and Pannett Park. It is also a beautiful place to relax if you arrive during the summer months, as the beach is one of the best on this stretch of coastline, and there is no denying there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy.

Recommended Tours

If you have more time to explore the area:

How to get to Whitby

If travelling via train, Whitby is on the Northern Rail line with a train station located centrally for anyone wanting to spend a night or two in town. You could also ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway if you are coming from one of the smaller towns locally. If you travel via road and are coming from the North of England, you will need to follow the A171 from Guisborough, while from the South, you will likely travel in on the A64. Alternatively, you could use the Coastliner Bus route, which has been voted one of Britain’s most scenic bus routes.

Travelling by Motorhome to Whitby

For those travelling in their motorhomes, should you not wish to stay at a campsite nearby, there are a couple of parking options for you, including:

  • The Park and Ride (sat nav postcode: YO21 1TL), which is located at the A171/B1460 junction North of Whitby, opposite The Stables pub and restaurant, has 450 free spaces, and motorhomes are welcome to park there during the day in the overflow car park area. Parking is free; therefore, the only cost is the bus ride into Whitby, which for two adults, was £5.20 (2024). 
  • The Penny Hedge (YO22 4QX) offers overnight parking for motorhomes and campervans. However, you will need to get there early, as there are only a couple of spots available. They will ask for a £5 donation (2024). From here, it is about 30 minutes walk into town.

Where to stay in Whitby

You only have to look at the selection of accommodation available in Whitby to see just how popular it is. But if you are looking for somewhere to stay in absolute luxury just a short walk from the town centre, look no further than Sneaton Castle, where the SSister’sPriory has been fully renovated to offer a modern stay while retaining the period features.

If location is important to you and you would prefer to stay in the heart of the town, consider staying at Jet Black Jewel which offers both boutique accommodation and a café bar to relax in. Each room of the rooms here tells a tale of Whitby Folklore or legend, and in each room, you will find a ‘‘Book of Peculiar Tales’’, a collection of all nine stories, perfect for some bedtime reading.

Alternatively, for Sherlock Holmes fans, the Sherlock Lodgings, associated with Sherlock’s Coffee Shop, is close to the waterfront on Flowergate Street and offers rooms rich in colour with sophisticatedly decorated bathrooms. The plus of staying here is that you get to have your breakfast surrounded by books in Sherlock’s Coffee Shop.

If being central to the town is not necessarily important, The Stables, opposite the park and ride, is an excellent option. The former 17th-century farmhouse now offers comfortable rooms in a setting brimming with all things Yorkshire, from the views to the local produce used. If you enjoy walking around a town during the day but prefer a relaxing dinner setting, this could be the hotel for you.

Motorhome Campsite Options

Many options are available nearby for those travelling by motorhome, depending on your needs.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club has a couple of different sites, ideally located to explore Whitby and the surrounding area. One is Monks Farm CL site, situated in Sneaton, just 3 miles from Whitby. Alternatively, you can walk along the ‘’Monks Walk.’’ These stones were originally laid by the monks of the Abbey.

If you are completely self-contained, you could opt for the North Yorkshire Moors Club Campsite, set in picturesque surroundings within the National Park, offering a peaceful stay surrounded by nature and close to several different towns, including Whitby, Goathland, and Robin Hood’s Bay.

However, if you enjoy walking, you may prefer to situate yourself between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay. In that case, look at their Swan Farm CL site, which would give you access to walkways along the coast to both towns.

Have you visited Whitby? What would you recommend others visit when in the area?

(N.B. The Caravan and Motorhome Club did provide us with a free pitch for the duration of our trip, but all research and recommendations are our own and have in no way been influenced by others).

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24 hours in Whitby by @tbookjunkie

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