Staithes and the surrounding North York Moors National Park offer a wealth of different activities:
Walking – the Cleveland Way passes through Staithes and can be followed along the cliff edges to the North and South, there are many circular routes which return by inland footpaths and minor roads. The reliable bus service along the A174 at the top of the village can be used to cover one leg of longer walks, you could for example catch the bus to Whitby and walk back to Staithes along the Cleveland Way passing through the picturesque villages of Sandsend and Runswick Bay. There are also many lovely inland walks in Eskdale a few minutes drive from Staithes.
Beaches and seashores – we like nothing better than to spend a day pottering on the beach, looking in rock pools, watching the waves and listening to the seabirds and we are sure that most other people do. There is a small beach within the confines of Staithes Harbour, 100m from Greystones, which is exposed from mid to low tide. It is gently shelving with no immediate strong currents so it is safe for children to wander around on. It contains a mixture of sand, pebbles and seaweed allowing the construction of fanciful sandcastles and other edifices. If you want a larger sandy beach then Runswick Bay has one and is only 3 miles South of Staithes, it is also a picturesque village and the pub does good food. Further South, at Sandsend, there is another wide sandy beach, eminently suitable for kite flying, where you can watch the surfers, or give it a go yourselves. Whitby has a sandy beach North of the harbour.
Cycling – the disused Whitby to Scarborough railway is now an excellent traffic-free cycleway and bikes can be hired from a shop on the trail at Hawsker, just South of Whitby, 01947 820207. They stock a wide range of bikes including childrens’ bikes and seats. There are also many bike friendly trails through the inland woods that border the coast.
Fishing – many people fish from the harbour wall at Staithes. For the more adventurous there are boat trips from Staithes (Sean – ‘All My Sons’ 01947 840278) and Whitby, you can usually hire tackle and bait from the proprietors. The River Esk is the only river in Yorkshire to contain salmon and sea trout and permits are available to fish some stretches of it.
Surfing – Staithes and nearby Sandsend are said to be the best surfing spots on the English East coast. We haven’t tried it ourselves but we do see lots of surfers in the waves, even in the middle of Winter.
Geology and industrial history – the sea cliffs present a wide range of geological formations from which many different materials have been mined. Remains of an ironstone mining operation can be seen at Port Mulgrave, a mile South of Staithes along the cliff tops. To the North of Staithes, at Skinningrove, there is the Tom Leonard Mining Museum where you can take a trip around an old iron mine and gain a fascinating insight into the iron mining industry that used to be so prominent around this area (01287 642877). Evidence of alum mining can be seen at Sandsend. Cowbar Nab at Staithes, the cliff on the North side of the harbour, shows Jurassic period strata. The harbour at Whitby is on a fault line which can be appreciated in the rock formations of the East and West cliffs.
Painting and photography – Staithes was the centre of eponymous school of painting in the early 20th century and it still inspires many artists (some of whom have chosen to live in Staithes for immediate access to this source). You won’t feel out of place if you set your easel up anywhere in Staithes, and there are always likely to be some fellow artists at work. An excellent art gallery, the Staithes Gallery, opened in 2006 and has an impressive collection of modern paintings and photographs. Frank Sutcliffe was a remarkable photographer of the early 20th Century whose work provides vivid documentation of life in Staithes, Whitby and the surrounding area. The Sutcliffe Gallery in Whitby displays his work and sells prints of them (The Sutcliffe Gallery, Flowergate, Whitby 01947 602239). An excellent art gallery has recently opened in Sandsend (Turnstone Gallery, Sandsend 01947 893289) which displays work by local artists. The Pannett Art Gallery in Whitby (Pannett Art Gallery, Pannett Park, Whitby 01947 602908) has a large collection of paintings including many from the Staithes School.
Birdwatching – Staithes has a wide selection of sea birds in its environs. The harbour always has turnstones, redshanks, plovers, wagtails, cormorants and the obligatory seagulls. In Winter more exotic visitors can be seen including sea ducks such as eider. Whitby harbour has a fine gathering of gulls. If you come in the late April to June period and haven’t been before then it is well worth the 50 mile trip South to see the thousands of puffins, fulmars, kittewakes, guillemots, razorbills and gannets that breed on the sea cliffs at the RSPB reserve at Bempton.
Golf – Whitby Golf Club is situated on the cliffs just North of Whitby and non-members are welcome (01947 600660).
Railways – the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is based at Grosmont which is 20 miles South of Staithes. There are 18 miles of track from Grosmont to Pickering and beautifully preserved steam trains run along this with a regular timetable which is very frequent at weekends and in the Summer (North Yorkshire Moors Railway 01751 472508). The Esk Valley railway is the ordinary railway that runs from Whitby to Middlesbrough, it has 11 stations in the picturesque Esk Valley so it can be used to explore this and to join up the ends of walks.