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Best places for rock pooling in and around Whitby

Rock pooling is educational; it gets you exploring the outdoors and new areas; it’s a lovely way to spend quality time with children, but best of all, it’s great fun! Here are the best places for rock pooling in and around Whitby.

Rock pooling is a great option if you’re looking for a fun and educational family activity. If you’re in or around Whitby, you’re in luck! This beautiful coastal area is home to some of the best rock pooling spots in the country, with abundant fascinating marine life to discover. Grab your nets, buckets, and wellies; here are the best places for rock pooling in and around Whitby. 


What is rock pooling?

Rockpooling in Whitby
Many people find rock pooling a calming and peaceful activity, perfect for a relaxing day by the coast.

Rock pooling is a fun and educational activity for people of all ages. It involves exploring the shallow waters around rocky shorelines in search of marine creatures such as crabs, starfish, and small fish. It’s a great way to connect with nature and learn about the fascinating world beneath the waves. Many people find rock pooling a calming and peaceful activity, perfect for a relaxing day by the coast.

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What rock pooling equipment will I need?

All you need to go rock pooling, even in the winter, is a reliable pair of wellies or other waterproof shoes. If you want to observe the creatures in more detail, you can purchase a net and bucket.


What can you find rock pooling in and around Whitby?

We spotted a common starfish at Sandsend beach.
We spotted a common starfish at Sandsend beach.

When exploring rock pools, you might come across a wide variety of fascinating creatures. Some of the most common inhabitants include:

  1. Hermit crabs, which can be identified by their spiral shells. 
  2. Small fish that measure up to 6cm in length and are usually grey or sandy in colour. 
  3. Green shore crabs are another common sight; they have jagged front shell edges and are typically dark green. 
  4. If you see a velvet swimming crab, you’ll know it by its red eyes and snappy demeanour. 
  5. Brown crabs are also present in these pools; they are large and brown, with black-tipped claws. 
  6. Keep an eye out for common starfish, which can be orange, brown, or purple and have 5 or 6 arms with a size of about 20cm across. 
  7. Sea urchins are also common and easily recognisable thanks to their ball-like shape and spines. You might also come across the spineless dried-up shells of sea urchins, usually pink, purple, or brown. 
  8. Limpets are another creature you might find; their pointed shells are ash-grey and white in colour. 
  9. Periwinkles are similar in shape to dog whelks and have spiral ridges; they can grow up to 5cm and come in various colours like grey, black, brown, or red. 
  10. Finally, keep an eye out for anemones, which are usually red, orange, or brown blobs at low tide. As the tide comes in, their tentacles come out. And remember the seaweed, which is plentiful in these pools. 
  11. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a shrimp or lobster!

Responsible rock pooling tips

Checking out the seaweed at Whitby Beach.
Checking out the seaweed!

When rock pooling, it’s essential to be responsible and considerate. 

  1. Start by washing your hands and approaching the area quietly. 
  2. Observe the pool and surrounding rocks, and carefully turn over any stones to uncover hidden marine life.
  3. To look closer, gently lower your bucket into the water and pull it up to examine your findings. Record and identify what you discover by taking photos or using a printed guide.
  4. When you have finished, return your discoveries carefully to the pool by re-submerging your bucket.
  5. Remember not to keep them in the bucket for too long, as they can get stressed by temperature changes. 
  6. And remember to wash your hands and equipment thoroughly afterwards!

Best places for rock pooling in and around Whitby

You can rock pool at any time of the year; make sure to prepare and dress appropriately.
You can rock pool at any time of the year; make sure to prepare and dress appropriately.

Rock pooling is an activity that can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, the best time to participate is during the late spring to early autumn months. During this period, the waters are warmer, and the seas are generally calmer, allowing for a more enjoyable experience.

Upgang Whitby Beach

Upgang Beach is a flat beach nestled between Sandsend Beach and Whitby West Cliff Beach and is backed by cliffs. You can access the beach via a path next to the Whitby Golf Course, which includes steps and steep walkways built into the side of the hill. Unlike other popular beaches in the area, Upgang Beach is not crowded with sunbathers or picnickers, making it a peaceful and relaxing spot to visit. This beach is also known for its hidden rock pools, which can be discovered during low tide. Dog walkers also frequent the area throughout the year, as no restrictions exist.

Robin Hood’s Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay Beach becomes a rock pooling paradise when the tide recedes. There are countless rock pools to be found here. It’s dog-friendly year-round, with no restrictions to be found. You can even walk along The Cleveland Way and The Cinder Track (the old Railway Line) towards Whitby or Scarborough in Robin Hood’s Bay. This beach is part of the Dinosaur Coast and is a popular destination for fossil hunters. You can expect to find ammonites, belemnites, and footprints from the Cretaceous and Jurassic Periods here. The most impressive specimens are housed in the museum at Whitby, which is worth a visit!

Rock pooling is educational and fun for children.
Rock pooling is educational and fun for children.

Sandsend

Sandsend Beach stretches from Sandsend Village to Dunsley Beck in the south. It’s a lovely, clean, sandy beach ideal for families. When the tide is out, there’s a large expanse of Sandsend Beach to explore, complete with plenty of rock pools for kids to investigate. We have found many starfish here! Please remember that dogs aren’t allowed on the central part of the beach from May to September (check the signs for more information).

Runswick Bay

The beach, once a place where brightly coloured fishing boats anchored, has become a popular spot for families to explore rock pools, hunt for fossils, and take in stunning sea views during coastal walks. Runswick Bay has even been voted among the top 5 ‘Best Beaches in the UK’ by readers of the Guardian, as well as being hailed as Britain’s best beachcombing location by Miranda Krestovnikoff, one of the presenters of the BBC series Coast. It’s a beloved destination for both tourists and locals.

Rock pooling at the beach in Whitby.
What will you find?

Staithes and Port Mulgrave

Numerous rock pools are left at low tide between Staithes and Port Mulgrave. These pools are teeming with life, which makes it an exciting experience for children. You can find plenty of fossils and tiny marine creatures while exploring. You may even spot some seals sunning themselves along the shore if you’re lucky enough! Staithes is also a popular spot for fossil hunters and palaeontologists.


We hope you have enjoyed our rock pooling guide and inspired you to visit these locations in and around Whitby. There is much more information about rock pooling on the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s website, and they have a fantastic rock pooling bingo sheet you can download and print out. Let us know if you have ever been rock pooling in Whitby in the comments.

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