Leeds-List: The Best & Most Insightful Guide to Leeds

Top 10 Seaside Towns and Villages Near Leeds

· Andrew Emery · Summer

Get your bucket and spade ready for God’s own coastline.

Runswick Bay

Yorkshire has a cracking coastline, so venture forth from Leeds to enjoy it.

The salty tang of the air, the smell of fish and chips frying, cotton wool clouds dancing across the sky – there’s nothing like a trip to the Yorkshire seaside. Whether you’re in the mood for towns with vast swathes of beach and penny arcades or looking for a romantic coastal bolt hole full of knick-knack shops, our county has you covered. With all of these seaside sensations near Leeds, you can feel the sand between your toes and the sun on your skin in no time.

Bridlington

bridlington

The squall of seagulls, the gannets roosting on the rocks – the sheer number of seabirds is one of the first things you’ll notice about Bridlington, less than two hours from Leeds. The next might be the pair of golden beaches, one a shining stretch of golden sand ideal for bathers and sandcastle makers, the other a curve of pebbles fringed with seaside fun in the shape of rides and amusements. It’s almost enough to make you realise why esteemed painter David Hockney traded LA for this corner of the Yorkshire coast.

Park yourself on the Blue Flag beaches or stroll along the harbour. You can even brave the waters or, if it’s a bit nippy, jump in a pleasure boat to see lovely Flamborough Head. When it comes to food and drink, you’re spoiled for choice with the award-winning Fish & Chips at 149 the pick of the chippies in town – just watch for those seagulls who know a good chip when they see one. For something more sedate, Raffles serves up renowned afternoon teas. For A-list shows and events, take a look at Bridlington Spa’s listings.

Sandsend

sandsend whitby

A wonderful contrast to some of the busier Yorkshire resorts, Sandsend is one of the most romantic seaside towns near to Leeds. Ideal for a trip away or an escape far from the madding crowd, it’s just north of the lively Whitby. Explore the rock pools on the village’s quiet beach, prove yourself as an amateur palaeontologist by hunting for fossils or watch the tide ebb and flow before the sun sets on this gorgeous corner of the world.

It’s an area beloved by walkers and geocachers, with little apartments and hotels to rest up in before another day of exploration. Give yourself a well-earned break at The Hart Inn, a dog-friendly delight that serves up a huge sharing seafood platter to graze on as you gaze out at the waves. If you and your main squeeze are away for the weekend, book in to Estbek House for two-AA Rosette dining. Local crab claws, Black Sheep-battered whitebait and a sensational seafood pie capture the mood perfectly.

Staithes

Staithes

Occupying a particularly rugged yet beautiful portion of the coast near Leeds, Staithes is like something out of an old sea shanty or story. A narrow road lined with shops, pubs and houses curls down towards the sea in a place that has made its living off the sea. Heck, Captain Cook got his first taste of maritime life when he lived here in the 1740s. You can find out more about him – and the area – at the Staithes Heritage Centre, while a stroll from there will take you to the Staithes Art Gallery, showcasing some famed local artists.

On your way down to the rockpool-studded beach, grab a pot of tea and a freshly-baked scone at Dotty’s Vintage Tearoom, then wander further to the Cod & Lobster. This pub is a great stop-off for local cask ales, but also a storied restaurant and inn that has fallen foul of stormy waves a few times. Order up some Whitby scampi or the signature dish that gives the place its name and you’ll be glad you came. The beach is ruggedly beautiful, popular with hikers on route to Whitby and Port Mulgrave.

Scarborough

scarbrought

When it comes to the Yorkshire seaside, Scarborough has it all. Two beaches, ice cream shops, arcades, history, shops and pubs galore – hence it’s the spiritual home of the seaside break. Jump on the train and Scarbados is near enough to Leeds to have you on the beach in well under two hours. If you’re looking for the quieter life, make a beeline for the more serene North Bay, or stick around the South Bay for the classic bucket and spade experience, with excellent chippies and sea view pubs aplenty.

It makes for a great year-round destination for the family, with a famous open-air theatre, Scarborough Castle’s three millennia of history, museums, parks and even a Sea Life centre. Pubs and cafes pepper the streets, or you can head a little inland to the excellent The Farrier, where the menu beguiles with cured pork belly and Home Farm venison. If you’d rather keep it simple, a bag of chips and a stick of rock with your feet in the sand is the stuff that seaside memories are made of.

Hornsea

Hornsea

About an hour-and-a-half from Leeds, Hornsea is ideal for a day out. With its beach of soft sand and a lovely promenade to stroll along arm-in-arm, there’s no shortage of stuff to see and do. Grab a prime spot on the Blue Flag beach and let the waves lap at your toes, watching the fishing boats go about their business. Make sure you take a walk down to the charming Bettison’s Folly, a hint of the Victorian past that saw service in World War Two as an air raid look-out.

Despite its compact size, there’s loads to see and do in Hornsea. The Hornsea Museum will whisk you back to the 18th century and is full of local pottery, or you can head over to Hornsea Mere, Yorkshire’s largest freshwater lake, to cruise in a motorboat. In need of refreshment? Grab a drink and some pub food at The Rose & Crown, or search out local favourite Whiteheads Fish & Chips for some of the best fried food you’ll ever taste – they even do plaice and ray in addition to the usual cod and haddock.

Robin Hood’s Bay

Robin Hood's Bay, Whitby

Jump in your car and in about an hour and 45 minutes you can be sitting on a deckchair at the glorious Robin Hood’s Bay, one of the loveliest beaches near Leeds. The fishing village is dotted with red-roofed cottages, the streets are cobbled and you almost expect to see wily old fishermen puffing on corncob pipes. It was actually a hotbed of smuggling in the 18th century, and you can take tours today that bring those old but brilliant stories to life. These days, however, you’re more likely to leave the Bay with fossils than smuggled silk.

In addition to gift shops – it’s a great place to pick up some Whitby jet jewellery. You can browse for antiques and books before getting cosy in Smugglers, an atmospheric, candlelit wine bar which also has has self-catering rooms for hire. A brunch at Brambles Bistro will set you up for a day of fossil-hunting and beach rambling and, if you’re planning on staying over, book in for a ghost walk. You’ll start off at the dock and be treated to some strange and supernatural stories.

Whitby

Whitby

Head to Whitby and there’s so much to do that you’ll be arranging your next trip before you’ve even left. Wonderful chippies, a Blue Flag Beach, the looming splendour of Whitby Abbey and a hilariously cheesy Dracula attraction are just the tip of the iceberg. The hot debate about the best fish and chips rages on, suffice to say that people come from far and wide to sample those served at The Magpie. Try it with a takeaway, or book a table for oysters, crab bisque and monkfish skewers.

There’s a treasure trove of shops here, with art galleries, jewellers selling jet and plenty of places for souvenirs. There are arcades and funfair rides near the beach, places to go crabbing, the Captain Cook Museum and numerous seaside pubs. The Middle Earth Tavern, with Gollum on the sign outside, serves local ales with a perfect view of the harbour. You can also grab at beer at Whitby Brewery’s taproom on East Cliff, while there’s no better place to get a bottle of Whitby Gin to take home.

Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Saltburn-by-the-Sea

One of the jewels in the North Yorkshire crown, Saltburn-by-the-Sea has a beach and pier at the bottom of a dramatic cliff, while the town itself sits on top. You can wind your way down paths and steps to the bottom or, best of all, get on the Saltburn Cliff Lift, a fabulous funicular which connects the two and has been running since 1884. The pier is even older, so saunter out to get fabulous views of the ocean, watch the surfers and fill your lungs with fresh sea air.

Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, with its bathing spots, chippies, arcades and places to grab a drink, head up to explore the town’s shops. There are arts & crafts, fishmongers and antique shops, as well as fab pubs and restaurants. The perfect place for a restorative pint, The Pillar Box is a micro pub serving rarely seen guest ales on rotation. Hungry? The vistas from the Seaview Restaurant don’t disappoint, and the food runs from seaside staples to highlights such as a knockout crab brioche.

Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head

Close to Bridlington, and also near Leeds, Flamborough Head is a seaside spot known for its much-photographed Bempton Cliffs of white chalk. This perfect peninsula boasts two lighthouses, one from 1806, the other from 1669, and the oldest complete lighthouse in the country. The area is famed as a nesting site for seabirds. You’ll spot puffins, gannets and auks, while the area as a whole is celebrated for its biodiversity. If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, it doesn’t get much greater than this.

It’s a quiet place, popular with bird-spotters and walkers, with a pair of beaches to choose between – North and South Landing. There are sea caves and rock pools, plus a plethora of quaint towns to visit nearby. Danes Dyke Nature Reserve is a year-round attraction, the woods changing colour with the seasons. There’s an array of trees and wildlife to be spotted, and you can work up a thirst to slake with a Wold Top ale at the Headlands Family Restaurant, close to the cliff edge.

Runswick Bay

Runswick Bay, Whitby

Red-roofed cottages, a sandy beach chosen in 2020 as The Sunday Times’ beach of the year, a bay sheltered from the elements – Runswick Bay is like a postcard brought to life. Less than two hours from Leeds, it’s a seaside town that’s completely unspoiled, a great place to take the kids for rock pooling, fossil-hunting, sunbathing and toe-dipping. It’s overlooked by Lingrow Knowle crag in an area full of breathtaking, heart-soaring views.

The village is so small you could put it in your pocket, so you can cover it in no time on foot. Take in the views from The Royal Hotel’s garden, perhaps accompanied by a pint of local beer. Just off the Cleveland Way you’ll find the Runswick Bay Tea Garden, the ideal spot for a cuppa and a cake. The best food is to be found at the Brunswick Bay Hotel, with fish, pies, a kid’s menu and six en-suite rooms perfect for a romantic break in this heavenly bit of North Yorkshire.