12 things to do in Scarborough when you visit. One of the oldest and most famous seaside resort towns in the country, Scarborough is blessed with historic charm and plenty of things to do.
Situated on the Yorkshire Coast, the town has a Victorian flair, visible through the impressive architecture of the Grand Hotel. Despite its rich architecture, Scarborough boasts a low-key, friendly atmosphere which makes it a great destination for summer or even a quick autumn escapade. With plenty of things to do in Scarborough, it is still a favourite UK holiday destination. Here are 12 activities and cool places to discover when you visit.
We are going to get you smitten with this town thanks to our list of the top things to do in Scarborough.
1. Explore the Old Town
Steeped in history, Scarborough’s Old Town is nestled behind the harbour. The area is a maze of cobbled winding streets and alleys lined by a selection of charming houses, quaint shops and cafés and lovely pubs and inns. Walking around this part of town is certainly a treat for the eyes, with little boutiques selling unique finds and local specialities.
Use the Old Town Trail itinerary, which includes valuable information about the historical landmarks worth seeing while exploring the town, such as the Town Hall, the Trinity House or the Grand hotel.
2. Visit the Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary
For an activity that will please all members of the family, the Scarborough SEA LIFE Sanctuary is an excellent idea. Spread across 12 themed sections home to a different environment, here you can get up close with penguins in their walk-through home, make new friends at the shark tank, with its ocean tunnel and its own shipwreck and drop by the new turtle rescue centre where visitors can learn hands-on the entire process of rescuing these friendly sea creatures. But undeniably, the highlight of the sanctuary is the seal hospital with its adorable patients receiving treatment on-site. Make the visit even more special by making a special booking so you can help serve breakfast to the resident seal population.
3. Explore the Rotunda Museum
As one of the oldest purpose-built museums still in use in the United Kingdom, the Rotunda Museum features an interesting collection of artefacts covering the ancient history of the area, including fossils found on East Yorkshire’s Dinosaur Coast and the remains of the Gristhorpe Man, which dates back to the Bronze Age.
In the Ancient Seas of the Yorkshire Coast, visitors get to discover the fascinating creatures that used to populate the area through fossils and reconstructions of marine life. Furthermore, the building itself is quite fascinating. Indeed, the circular, grade-II-listed building was constructed in 1829 and includes features that will surely captivate architecture fans.
4. Enjoy the views at Café View
Whether you are looking for a place for a coffee break, breakfast & brunch, afternoon tea or if you need to take refuge from the elements, pop by Café View. This lovely café boasts fantastic views as the name suggests, of the harbour, the beach and the sea. But also, a welcoming staff and a menu filled with yummy goodies and treats that makes it a favourite spot among locals and recurring visitors. The food is fresh to order and includes vegetarian options and the coffee is known to be excellent.
Rest assured, even if you don’t get a table right by the window, you can still enjoy the show from pretty much anywhere in the café. Find more information here.
5. Enjoy fantastic views over Scarborough at the Castle
Located between North and South Bay, Scarborough Castle is a 12th-century castle overlooking the town. The medieval structure survived five sieges but was left in ruins during the English Civil War. And yet, it continues to attract visitors daily and reward them with impressive views across the town. After your visit, make your way to the nearby St Mary’s Church and its small graveyard where is buried Anne Brontë, the youngest of the famous sisters. And if you want to get spooked, take part in the ghost evening tour of Scarborough Castle, available on specific dates, including Halloween. This is a great opportunity to travel through time and hear tales of ghosts and learn more about the gruesome history of the castle and the town.
6. Take a break at Peasholm Park
Located in Scarborough’s North Bay, Peasholm Park is a great place to stop when exploring the town. The park, which was designed according to an oriental theme, has been restored to its original splendour and includes a tranquil lake where visitors can hire small rowing boats and pedalos to explore the area. There is even a small island in the heart of the lake, connected via a small bridge leading to an impressive Chinese-style pagoda.
7. Listen to the orchestra at Scarborough Spa
Built on the cliffs overlooking the beach during the Victorian era, the Scarborough Spa, despite its historical look, is fitted with modern facilities. It is also home to one of the last seaside orchestras in the country, which plays classical music just like during the town’s glorious past when visitors were flocking to Scarborough to experience the healing properties of the waters.
Since the orchestra only plays during the summer months, we recommend you plan your trip accordingly so you can experience this historic tradition that dates back to 1912. And if you happen to visit Scarborough outside the summer months, rest assured the spa is still open for a variety of events.
8. Catch a show at the Stephen Joseph Theatre
Despite its quiet atmosphere, Scarborough has quite a lively theatre scene. Indeed, the town boasts several great venues, including the Stephen Joseph Theatre. With its convenient location near the Scarborough Spa, the theatre showcases a combination of classic and modern shows.
The venue also includes a small art gallery and a bar on-site, while numerous restaurants are located nearby. The theatre also shows classic movies and sometimes even streams major events on a big screen.
9. Unwind at Falcon Forest Glamping
While there are several great lodging options in Scarborough and around, we cannot help but include this unusual option on this list. If you want to give glamping a try, Falcon Forest Glamping is the perfect solution. Offering elegant and contemporary quality pods and log cabins, this glamping site is located within a lush woodland near the North York Moors National Park, a few kilometres from Scarborough on the road to Whitby.
Perfect for anyone looking for alternative accommodation, Falcon Forest Glamping welcomes families, solo travellers and couples looking to reconnect with nature. Slow down and enjoy coastal walks in the area, enjoying delicious food in local pubs and restaurants or discovering enchanting tearooms before returning to your luxurious quarters.
10. Have fun at Olympia Leisure
If you happen to visit Scarborough on a rainy day, don’t worry. There are plenty of things to do, including having fun. Scarborough boasts several great arcades where the whole family can have a good time and Olympia is definitely one of them.
The complex includes a wide collection of arcade games on the ground floor, including penny pushers, slot machines, video games and children rides while upstairs, the bowling alley with its 12 lanes and the go-kart track is perfect for teens (and adults too). The bar on the premises is perfect for a small break from the madness, if necessary. Find more information here.
11. Scarborough Market Hall
Recently renovated, the Scarborough Market Hall is another interesting place to visit. This historic market hall is a great place to score fresh vegetables and fruits, bread and other goodies, but also for a nice lunch or coffee too. The market also hosts pop-up stalls and special events at the mezzanine level, which makes it a must-visit destination all year round.
Don’t miss the chance to visit the vaults too, where you will be able to roam through shops selling a plethora of things, from antiques and crafts, books, jewellery and even clothes.
12. Grab some Fish and Chips at Lifeboat Fishbar
A must-visit fish and chips spot in Scarborough is undeniably Lifeboat Fishbar. This small fish and chip cafe is conveniently located off the waterfront, a few meters from, you guessed it, the lifeboat station.
The family affair is known for its welcoming and friendly service and delicious fish. You can eat inside or take it away. In fact, we definitely recommend you pop by, order and take your meal away to enjoy on the beach. Because why not…
or… just spend the day at the beach!
Scarborough is blessed with several beaches, with South Bay Beach (or South Beach) being the busiest of them all. And for good reasons. Sheltered from the north thank to the castle, the beach is blessed with soft sand, calm and clean waters and is easily accessed from the town centre. A variety of shops and businesses and entertainment are available as well, including donkey rides. That being said, it is North Beach that has earned the Blue Flag title. In fact, unlike South Beach, the beach here is away from the road and features a chalet-lined promenade leading to the Sea Life Sanctuary. Low tide is the perfect moment to explore rock pools though caution is needed as the tide rises rather quickly.
For those looking for more tranquil areas, Cayton Beach is perfect, with its lush woodland and serene waters. For even more isolation, Cornelian Bay Beach is what you need, nestled somewhere between South Bay and Cayton Bay. Here, the beach hardly gets crowded even on a hot summer day, which may be great news for those seeking tranquillity. Find more information here.
Let us know your favourite things to do in Scarborough in the comments.