20 Things To Do In Scarborough (England)

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Located in the North East of England, Scarborough is a quaint seaside resort town with two big beaches to explore. The Yorkshire coastline stretches for 45 miles (72.4 km) and Scarborough is Yorkshire’s go-to coastal town. During the 1720’s Scarborough became the first seaside resort in England and to this day remains one of the most popular British resorts by the sea for holidaymakers.

Close to the North York Moors National Park, Scarborough is the perfect destination to lap up the fresh sea breeze and spend a week in the salty open air. Although Scarborough is small, there are many things to keep you entertained, including Scarborough Castle, the North and Southside beaches, old tramways and museums.

Scarborough

20 Things To Do In Scarborough

1- Visit Scarborough Castle

Scarborough Castle
Exploring Scarborough Castle is one of the top things to do in Scarborough for visitors. Photos: Harriet Comley.

Sitting proudly on the protruding headland between both of Scarborough’s bays is the old ruin of Scarborough Castle.

This castle is the most iconic landmark in Scarborough and all its ruined glory can be seen from both the North and South Bay beaches.

In 1159 under the direction of King Henry II, Scarborough Castle was transformed from its humble beginnings a few years previously to a prestigious royal castle.

Henry II was also responsible for building the town beneath the castle’s walls, which we still see today.

The second monarch connected to Scarborough Castle was King John, who spent £2,291 on improving Scarborough Castle to control Yorkshire.

That might sound like an unimpressive figure today, but it was one of the highest sums of money spent on a castle during that time.

In the castle, you can enjoy spectacular views of North and South Bay beaches, learn about the history of Scarborough at the Master Gunner’s House exhibition and enjoy a cup of tea at the café.

In the winter months, the castle is usually closed during the week and open on Saturday/Sunday (10 am to 4 pm). Adults can enter the castle for £7.90 and entry for children is £4.70.

Scarborough Castle is at Castle Rd, Scarborough YO11 1HY, UK.

2- Relax In Peasholm Park

things to do in scarborough boats at Peasholm Park
Boating, walking and admiring gardens are some of the things to do in Scarborough’s Peasholm Park.

Set back from the North Bay beach, Peasholm Park is an excellent spot for a stroll near the lake.

At Peasholm Park, you’ll find red-roofed pagodas and Chinese and Japanese-influenced arched bridges.

Hire a dragon-shaped pedal boat or a classic rowing boat to explore Peasholm Park from the water.

The park is an excellent place for kids to explore, and if you visit during summer, you might be able to hear the Scarborough Spa Orchestra playing in the park.

Peasholm Park is at North Bay, Scarborough YO12 7TR, UK.

3- Go Surfing

The north shores of Scarborough bay have become a hot spot (or maybe a rather cold spot) for surfers in recent years.

Dexter’s Surf School offers both surf and paddleboard lessons for those wanting to learn while in Scarborough, as well as supplying all the equipment you may need for your seaside adventure.

It might seem more appealing to hit the waves in summer, but serious surfers are prepared to don a wetsuit and hit the surf in winter.

The Scarborough Art Gallery building was constructed in 1845 as a private residence but was acquired almost a century later by the Scarborough Council in 1942.

It was converted into an art gallery and in 1947, opened to the public.

Artworks on display include works by John Atkinson Grimshaw, Frank Brangwyn and Frederic Lord Leighton.

Admission to the art gallery is £3 and includes entry to our next destination on this list, the Rotunda Museum.

This fee also entitles you to visit multiple times for a year from the date of your ticket; under 18’s can enter free of charge.

The art gallery is open between Tuesday and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Scarborough Art Gallery is at The Crescent, Scarborough, YO11 2PW.

5- Learn About The Ocean At Rotunda Museum

The Rotunda Museum is one of the world’s first purpose-made museums, which opened its doors to the public in 1829.

It embraces its seaside location with several maritime exhibitions, including a display of over 5,500 sea fossils.

The Rotunda Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday between 10 am and 5 pm. You will find the Rotunda Museum on the South Bay set back from the sea, behind the spa bridge.

Rotunda Museum is at Vernon Road, Scarborough, YO11 2PS.

For more ideas around England read:

6- See A Show At Scarborough Open Air Theatre

unusual things to do in scarborough Open air theatre
One of the fun things to do in Scarborough is to see a show at the open-air theatre. Pictured here is the dressing room.

With an impressive lineup of international acts, the Scarborough Open Air Theatre is the place to attend a concert.

The theatre has recently increased its capacity to seat 8,000 people.

Despite being located in a small town, this outdoor music venue has seen many big names grace its stage.

This year acts performing at the Open Air Theatre include Christine Aguilera, Tom Jones, Lewis Capaldi, Simply Red, Lionel Richie, Westlife and even Ru Paul’s Drag Race Tour.

Scarborough Open Air Theatre is just off Burniston Road opposite Peasholm Park. The address is Burniston Rd, Scarborough YO12 6PF, UK.

7- Visit SEA LIFE Scarborough

The distinctive white pyramids of the SEA LIFE centre have been a local landmark of Scarborough since the aquarium opened.

This aquarium is the perfect place to take kids as you can see various marine wildlife, including penguins and seals.

The SEA LIFE centre’s opening times vary throughout the year but are typically open between 10 am to 4 pm throughout the week. Tickets for the aquarium are £17.96 for adults and £15.75 for children.

SEA LIFE Scarborough is at Scalby Mills Rd, Scarborough YO12 6RP, UK.

8- Walk Around South Bay And The Harbour

Scarborough South Bay
There are severeal things to do in Scarborough’s South Bay.

South Bay is the heart of Scarborough and a hub of activity.

Picturesque houses seem to trickle down from the cliff edge towards the beach.

Stroll along the beach, wander around the harbour or visit the lighthouse.

It’s a wonderful place to go for a walk and to feel the fresh, breezy sea air.

You can walk from the harbour all the way along the bay onto the beach and down to the Scarborough Spa.

9- Watch A Play At Stephen Joseph Theatre

Scarborough attractions (stephen joseph theatre at night)
Watching a show at Stephen Joseph Theatre is one of the top things to do in Scarborough at night.

There are several good reasons to head to the Stephen Joseph Theatre when in Scarborough.

This theatre is the home of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, who premiers his plays at Stephen Joseph.

2022 sees plays such as ‘Black Is the Color of My Voice’, Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ and ‘Frankenstein’ on the programme, to name a few.

The Art Deco-inspired Stephen Joseph Theatre is on Westborough Street opposite the Scarborough railway.

10- Take A Photo Of Giant Freddie Gilroy

things to do with kids in scarborough Giant Freddie Gilroy
One of the things to do in Scarborough with kids is to pay a visit to the Giant Freddie Gilroy sculpture.

Giant Freddie has become a much-loved Scarborough landmark for over a decade.

As you drive along North Bay, you may notice a statue of a giant man sitting on a huge bench overlooking the sea.

Freddie Gilroy is a steel structure created by artist Ray Lonsdale.

The sculpture is based on real-life South Hetton born Freddie Gilroy, a soldier during WW2 who helped liberate those in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany.

Jump up onto the big bench, take a seat with Freddie and look out onto the North Sea.

11- Eat Ice Cream At The Harbour Bar

things to do in scarborough for families Harbour Bar
Another fun thing to do in Scarborough for kids is to eat ice cream at the Harbour Bar.

In July 2020, the Harbour Bar celebrated its 75th birthday.

This American-style, yellow themed café bar has been popular for locals and visitors.

The Harbour Bar is arguably one of the best spots for a 99 ice cream in the whole of Scarborough, and they make a scrumptious ice-cream sundae to boot.

Step inside the doors of this café, and you almost feel as if you’ve been transported back in time, with diner girls wearing traditional outfits, and the 1950’s style has barely changed since its opening.

Harbour Bar is at 1 Sandside, Sunny Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1PE.

12- Walk Along North Bay

Scarborough North Bay Beach
North Bay Beach.

Many of those visiting Scarborough tend to head to the South Bay, but the lesser populated North Bay is one of the most idyllic spots in the town.

You can walk all the way from the triangular-shaped SEA LIFE centre-right to the old pedestrian toll booth along the marine drive before entering the South Bay.

As you enjoy your walk along the bay, keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins, porpoises, peregrine falcons and big waves splashing up onto the marine drive.

13- Eat Fish and Chips

things to do in scarborough this weekend Winking Willy's
One of the things to do in Scarborough when it’s raining is to eat fish and chips in Winking Willy’s.

Perhaps the most quintessentially British dish, fish and chips are best served fresh by the beach, and the South Bay of Scarborough is one of the best places to go for your fishy fix.

Though not a traditional fish and chip shop, Winking Willy’s is one of the most popular, located at the north end of South Bay, opposite the harbour.

Sit by the harbour or on the beachfront with your yummy fish and chips, but just be careful you don’t have your food stolen by those overly confident seagulls that seem to be able to smell this salty treat from miles away.

Winking Willy’s is at 9-10 Sandside, Scarborough YO11 1PE, UK.

14- St Mary’s Church

things to do scarborough St Mary's Church
Visiting St Mary’s Church is one of the things to do in Scarborough for history buffs.

St Mary’s Church is located just down the hill, around 100m from Scarborough Castle.

This parish church stands proud overlooking the South Bay and dates back to 1150.

During the 17th century English Civil War, the church was used for troops to launch their attack on the castle, and as a result, much of the church was destroyed during this time.

For those interested in 17th-century literature, St Mary’s Church is also the final resting place of Anne Brontë, an English poet and novelist.

Anne was the youngest of the Brontë sisters and is perhaps best known for her 1847 novel Agnes Grey.

St Mary’s Church is at Castle Rd, Scarborough YO11 1HY, United Kingdom.

15- Scarborough Spa

You can find the Scarborough Spa at the south end of South Bay, just a stone’s throw away from the Rotunda Museum.

This Grade II-listed heritage building was constructed in 1839 and is now used for conferences, exhibitions, music performances and afternoon teas.

During the 17th century, natural mineral waters were discovered by a lady named Mrs Farrow.

Soon people flocked to Scarborough to drink the waters, which were believed to be healing and improving the overall health of those living in the smoggy cities.

Scarborough Spa is at South Bay, Scarborough YO11 2HD, United Kingdom.

16- Crunch On A Stick of Rock

scarborough things to do colourful rock candy
Another of the fun things to do in Scarborough with kids is to eat rock candy.

If you’re not from the UK, you may not be familiar with this seaside confectionary.

Seaside rock is a cylindrical stick of boiled sugar usually paired with peppermint.

It’s always found in vibrant colours and often with messages at both ends.

Rock is an essential seaside purchase, especially for those trying it for the first time. But do be careful not to break your teeth.

17- Play The Slot Machines

Much of the South Bay is littered with slightly tacky tourist shops, especially the slot machines and arcades.

Have a go at winning a few cuddly toys or rather excitedly waiting to win toys and then distressingly failing to catch them every time the claw hand is lowered into the machine.

Olympia Leisure and Coney Island arcades are some of the more recognisable slot machines on the South Bay.

The South Bay arcades are also an excellent location to visit at night as the seafront lights up in all its neon glory.

18- Ride The Central Tramway

Built by the Central Tramway Company in 1881, this tramway is a Victorian cliff railway that takes visitors from town to the South Bay beachfront.

The Central Tramway is one of the oldest cliff railways still in operation in the UK.

To ride the tram one way costs £1.20 and children under five travel for free.

Central Tramway is at Upper Station, 1 Marine Parade YO11 2ER, United Kingdom.

19- Ride the North Bay Railway

The cutesy North Bay Railway is an excellent Scarborough attraction for the kids to enjoy.

This miniature railway was built in 1931 and runs for just 1.4km between Peasholm Park and Scalby Mills.

Hop aboard the green train and you can see the SEA LIFE centre as well as views of the North Sea.

An adult return trip on the railway costs £4.50 for adults and children.

North Bay Railway is at Burniston Rd, Scarborough YO12 6PF, United Kingdom.

20- Marvel at the Grand Hotel

things to do in scarborough (Grand Hotel at night)
Soaking up the fairytale view of the Grand Hotel is one of the things to do in Scarborough today.

The Grand Hotel takes pride of place on the South Bay shorefront.

This Victorian hotel was built in 1863 and is a striking example of a calendar hotel.

If you don’t know what a calendar hotel is, let me explain.

The Grand Hotel was built around numbers in the calendar, for example, 52, 12, 365.

The hotel’s four towers represent the four seasons, there are 12 floors for the months of the year, 52 chimneys, and (originally) 365 bedrooms.

Although this hotel was once grand and pristine, I wouldn’t recommend staying there under current management, as the reviews don’t exactly entice, and the interior is more than a little dilapidated.

However, it’s still an iconic Scarborough landmark that’s impressive from the beachfront.

The Grand Hotel is at St Nicholas Cliff, Scarborough YO11 2ET, UK.

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harriet comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!