Whitby or Scarborough? Our Guide to Help You Decide!

With glistening shores, family-friendly attractions and miles of spectacular scenery decorating each town, it's hard to decide between visiting Whitby or Scarborough.

Whitby or Scarborough? Where to Stay

There’s no end of things to see on the Yorkshire coast – and Whitby and Scarborough are two stand-out names.

Whether you’re looking for fun-filled activities, beach days or attractions to keep the whole family entertained, you’re sure to find it in both towns.

We’ve handpicked our favourites in our Whitby or Scarborough guide. Continue reading to find out more…

Whitby or Scarborough: Beaches

A little girl holding a bucket and spade on the beach

Without a shadow of a doubt, the first factor to consider in the Whitby or Scarborough debate is the beaches. Scarborough is home to an incredible 21 beaches, while Whitby follows as a close second with 20.

Ranking the two of them comes down to what you like best from a beach – from sandcastles and penny arcades to long clifftop walks.

Best Beaches For Activities in Whitby or Scarborough

If your idea of a fun day at the beach is more about getting active than lying in the sand, we’ve picked out the best Scarborough and Whitby beaches for you.

A far reaching view across Sandsend Beah at sunset

Sandsend Beach, Whitby 

Make sure you bring your board to Sandsend Beach, just outside of Whitby. It’s home to a surfing club and has some of the biggest waves in the region. You can also look for wildlife in the rockpools – ideal for some secluded exploring.

Scarborough Beach, Scarborough

Scarborough’s main beach is ideal for getting stuck into a little local tourism. Stroll around the Rotunda Museum of Coastal Heritage or marvel at the art gallery. There’s also your pick of classic arcades, so make sure you bring some spare change.

A birdseye view of Scarborough Beach

Best Beaches For Nature Walks in Whitby or Scarborough

To get away from it all, make sure you check out these nature walks in Whitby or Scarborough.

A view of Upgang Beach from the coastal path

Upgang Beach, Whitby

Upgang Beach is far less crowded than other beaches in Whitby, with shingle and sandy areas amongst a stunning array of clifftops. After you’ve wandered around, go for a swim or watch the surfers in the bay. There’s even Whitby Golf Club close by if you’re looking for a different vibe.

North Bay Beach, Scarborough

Far from the hustle and bustle of the South Bay, the North Bay beach in Scarborough offers a large esplanade and clifftop views. You don’t need to be a full-on hiker to take it all in. You can even take the dog for a walk or wander up to Scarborough Castle.

An ariel view of North Bay Beach in Scarborough

Best Beaches For Kids in Whitby or Scarborough

Visiting with little ones? While ice creams and sandcastles are a given, there’s also plenty to do at these Whitby or Scarborough beaches.

Colourful beach huts lining the promenade

West Cliff Beach, Whitby

The main beach in Whitby is ideal for the little ones, thanks to its flat sandy shoreline and colourful beach huts. Hire yourselves a deckchair and watch the kids play while you top up your tan, or see Whitby from a different view with a donkey ride.

South Bay Beach, Scarborough

At the South Bay Beach in Scarborough, you’ll find a historic cliff lift, which has been running since the late 19th Century. There’s also a working inner harbour where you’re free to explore pleasure boats and yachts. Stop off for some traditional cockles and winkles or a stick of rock at the local stalls.

An ariel view of a harbour full of boats in Scarborough

Whitby vs Scarborough: Attractions

Make your visit memorable to Whitby or Scarborough by taking in all the local tourist attractions.

Four people walking down Whitby Steps with a view of the coast in the background

Whitby Attractions

There’s plenty going on in Whitby, from seasonal events such as the Goth Weekend to permanent fixtures like the 199 steps.

  • The North Yorkshire Gallery – here you’ll be able to see Whitby through the camera lens, as captured in stunning photography from local talents.
  • The Captain Cook Museum – learn more about the discoverer’s adventures and join in activities such as ropemaking.
  • The 199 Steps – climb the famous 199 Steps to make your way up to Whitby Abbey, and learn more about Bram Stoker’s Dracula along the way.
  • Whitby Abbey – after a long climb, wander around these ancient ruins and discover more about the abbey’s ghostly past.

Scarborough Attractions

Scarborough offers an incredible day out, from educational trips to high thrills and swimming.

  • Scarborough Sky Trail Adventure – both kids and adults will scale this rope course to take in the views of the Yorkshire coast.
  • Alpamare Scarborough – who needs the beach? This high-thrills waterpark has steep slides, infinity pools and even an on-site spa.
  • Sea Life Scarborough – say hello to penguins, seals and sharks or indulge in a little miniature golf.
  • Scarborough North Bay Railway – make your way around Scarborough in style with this exciting railway ride, transporting you to the Water Chute and the Scarborough Sky Trail Adventure.

A steam train at North Bay Railway in Scarborough

Whitby vs Scarborough: Food and Drink

Looking for the best places to eat in Whitby or Scarborough? We’ve got you covered. Naturally, you’ll find plenty of seafood in Whitby but there’s also a great pub and café culture around the county – as seen in Scarborough’s best restaurants. We’ve chosen a few of our favourites.

A burger and chips on a tray in a restaurant

AZ Restaurant, Scarborough

For something exotic, the AZ Restaurant offers a Turkish and Mediterranean menu, featuring meats, herbs and spices, plus classic moussaka and vegetarian options. You’ll find it in the North Bay.

Trenchers, Whitby

It would be remiss of us not to mention fish and chips – and you can dine in style on this British classic at Trenchers. Try this upmarket version of award-winning local produce, located on New Quay Road for light lunches or full dinners.

Clark’s Restaurant, Scarborough

Head up to Scarborough Market to visit Clark’s, where you’ll indulge in small plates and British tapas. It’s not got a Michelin star yet, but rumour has it, it could be on the menu…

Magpie Café, Whitby

Seafood doesn’t come any better than the Magpie Café on Pier Road. Feast on grilled or poached haddock, cod and halibut, or tuck into a tasty lobster thermidor.

Eat Me Café and Social, Scarborough

For an eclectic mix of coffee shop and bistro vibes, head to the Eat Me Café and Social. It’s right next to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, and serves Thai and Japanese dishes by night, or coffee and ice cream by day.

The Star Inn The Harbour, Whitby

If you’re looking for somewhere upmarket, you can’t go wrong at The Star Inn The Harbour. This AA Rosette restaurant is owned by Michelin-starred chef Andrew Pern, and offers seafood and game right from the North Yorkshire Moors.

 The Best Places to Stay in Whitby or Scarborough

Making a trip of your visit to the Yorkshire coast? Be sure to stay in these areas in and around Whitby or Scarborough.

A street running alongside the coast of Runswick Bay

Places to Stay near Whitby

  • Whitby – learn all about Captain Cook in this classic beachside town.
  • Robin Hood’s Bay – just six miles from Whitby, get away from it all in this quiet fishing village.
  • Sandsend – take in the ancient ruins of Mulgrave Castle and St Mary’s Church in this pokey village.
  • Runswick Bay – enjoy plenty of photo moments with multi-coloured cottages and sprawling clifftop walks.

Places to Stay near Scarborough

  • Scarborough – from the cliff lift to the arcades, enjoy nightlife and pleasurable walks.
  • Filey – visit the local distillery, beaches and wild animal parks in this spot between Scarborough and Bridlington.
  • North York Moors – get your hiking boots on and take in the sights of the North York Moors National Park, ideal for wildlife watching.

Colourful countryside in the North York Moors

Has our guide on Whitby or Scarborough got you itching to explore the Yorkshire coast? Make it a getaway to remember with a stay in one of our local cottages in Whitby or Scarborough.

And for more inspiration on how to spend your time in these bustling towns, give our guides on 12 popular walks in Whitby or where to enjoy afternoon tea in Scarborough a read!

Images courtesy of: Malc McDonald(CC BY-SA 2.0); Chris Sutton(CC BY-SA 2.0)