If you’re after a real authentic British seaside town experience then Scarborough should definitely be on your bucket list. Home to heaps of family friendly activities, miles of beaches and beautiful parks, there are so many things to do in Scarborough with kids.
In this post I’m going to detail all the best Scarborough activities splitting them out by free things to do in Scarborough, things to do in Scarborough when it rains and also some things you have to pay for. I’ll also give you some ideas for day trips from Scarborough that the kids will love, where to stay in Scarborough with kids and where to eat. If there’s a section you’re particularly interested in just skip to that part in the table of contents below.
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List of Contents
- 1 Free things to do in Scarborough with kids
- 1.1 Hit the Beach
- 1.2 Peasholm Park
- 1.3 Take a walk along the Cleveland Way
- 1.4 Scarborough Lifeboat Station
- 1.5 Explore the stunning South Cliff Gardens
- 1.6 Check out the architecture at Scarborough Spa
- 1.7 Walk across the Spa bridge
- 1.8 Take the stairs at St Nicholas Gardens
- 1.9 Check out the sculptures
- 1.10 Walk out to the Lighthouse
- 1.11 Take a selfie with a traditional blue phone box
- 1.12 Visit a literary great’s grave
- 2 Things to do in Scarborough when it Rains
- 3 Great value things to do in Scarborough with kids
- 3.1 Visit Scarborough Castle
- 3.2 Ride the many funiculars and tramways
- 3.3 Have a go at surfing
- 3.4 Have a game of mini golf
- 3.5 Swing through the trees
- 3.6 Spend the day at Alpamere water park
- 3.7 Ride the big wheel
- 3.8 Take a trip on a pirate ship
- 3.9 See a show in the open air theatre
- 3.10 Take the open top bus around town
- 3.11 Use your outdoor voices at the funfair
- 4 Great Day trips from Scarborough
- 5 Where to stay in Scarborough with kids
- 6 Where to eat in Scarborough with kids
- 7 Where to park in Scarborough
Free things to do in Scarborough with kids
Hit the Beach
The first thing the kids will want to do on a visit to the British seaside is to hit the beach. Scarborough is home to some great beaches with all the facilities you’ll need for a full day in the sand. The waves in Scarborough are brilliant for boarding or surfing but the sea can be chilly so bring your boards and wetsuits so you can enjoy a splash. You could also purchase a super cheap bucket, bait and line and try your hand at crabbing in the harbour.
North Bay Beach
North Beach in Scarborough is probably my favourite. It’s slightly more rugged than other beaches in town as it’s quiet a walk from the centre and is backed by cliffs and sea defences. North Bay Beach also tends to be quieter giving the kids more space to run around.
There are plenty of facilities at North Bay with toilets, cafes and restaurants a plenty. When the tide comes in the sand pretty much disappears so this is a popular place to hire a colourful beach hut. There is a dog ban on parts of North Bay over the summer months so just check which area they are allowed in before you let them run free.
South Beach tends to be more commercialised making it a bit busier with even more facilities. Here you’ll find the famous Scarborough Spa and plenty of boat trips, a harbour, donkey rides and amusement arcades.
There are also a few more brightly coloured beach huts overlooking the beach. They are absolutely delightful!
Peasholm Park is a brilliant place to take the kids in Scarborough. The park has an oriental theme with bridges, ponds, manicured gardens and play areas. Over the summer months you can hire a pedalo or row boat on the lake and you might even catch a concert on the bandstand. Make sure you walk up the hill to see the delightful Chinese pagoda at the top. Although it’s easily walkable from the town centre Peasholm Park feels like a peaceful oasis of green calm. Dogs must be kept on a lead in Peasholm Park.
Take a walk along the Cleveland Way
Even kids love a good view and there’s no better than from the top of the cliffs across the North Sea coastline. The Cleveland way is a 109 mile hiking trail along the Yorkshire coast and across the moors. It begins in Helmsley and finishes in Filey although you can walk as much or as little as you like as the trail runs straight through Scarborough.
Scarborough Lifeboat Station
Having opened in 1801 Scarborough lifeboat station is one of the oldest in the UK although the current building is a lot more modern than that. It has won 17 medals over the years and saves numerous lives. You can visit the visitor centre between 10am and 4pm each day or book a group visit if you’re a large party.
Explore the stunning South Cliff Gardens
Another beautiful patch of green in Scarborough is South Cliff Gardens home to many hidden paths and formal Italian Gardens. The rose gardens when in bloom are an absolute must visit. This one can be a bit tough on the knees as the walk up to the top from the beach is pretty steep but I promise the views from the top are worth it. You’ll find them located behind Scarborough Spa where there’s also a lovely little cafe for the kids to enjoy an ice cream.
Check out the architecture at Scarborough Spa
Once the highlight of town where visitors would flock to experience the restorative power of the local spring water this is no longer an actual Spa. It’s a gorgeous work of Victorian architecture and is a must visit in Scarborough. The building is now used as an events venue so it’s well worth checking their schedule before your visit.
Walk across the Spa bridge
Scarborough’s cliff bridge is another of my favourite photo spots in town. It’s eye-catching turquoise colour is the first thing you’ll notice as you cross but make sure to stop halfway across for some gorgeous views of South Bay.
Take the stairs at St Nicholas Gardens
Yet another lovely park space in Scarborough is St Nicholas Gardens, the entrance to which you’ll find opposite South beach. This is a fab place for a picnic as there are plenty of benches and colourful flowers. Any kids full of energy will love the many steps up to the Town Hall.
Check out the sculptures
Scarborough is home to some really great pieces of art and a few outdoor sculptures which cannot be missed. The Bathing Belle located in North Bay nods towards the Victorians love of this seaside town and is a young girl wearing long bathers about to enjoy a swim.
The Tunny sculpture located towards the lighthouse on the harbour walls pays homage to what was once the towns favourite sport, Tunny (or tuna) fishing.
Walk out to the Lighthouse
The pretty white lighthouse is located at the end of Vincent pier. The tower was rebuilt in 1931 after it was destroyed in the war. The lighthouse is attached to the Scarborough Yacht Club meaning it is a still a busy part of town to this day.
Take a selfie with a traditional blue phone box
I have no idea why this tardis style phone box has popped up in Scarborough near the harbour and have struggled to find any info on it I’m afraid. It is still a pretty cool photo spot in Scarborough plus it’s Grade II listed!
Visit a literary great’s grave
Author of Agnes Grey and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë is buried in St Mary’s Church and Scarborough has featured heavily in many of her books. You’ll find the church just below the castle looking out to the old town of Scarborough.
Things to do in Scarborough when it Rains
Explore the Sealife on dry land
The Sealife centre in Scarborough is the ideal thing to do in Scarborough when it rains. Located in the north of town it’s a huge space full of amazing sea creatures from all around the world. It has a rainforest area, penguin island, seal hospital and shark area. Kids will love the interactive zones where they can meet the residents and burn off some energy in the outdoor play area.
Hit up the Arcades
It’s practically the law to visit an amusement arcade during a visit to a British seaside town. Scarborough has plenty to choose from and it can be a relatively cheap way to spend a few hours. Coney Island is one of the most popular but there’s also Shaws Amusements, Henry Marshalls and the Silver Dollar Arcade.
Go bowling at Olympia Leisure
For some wholesome family fun head to Olympia Leisure, a brilliant bowling complex. It also has plenty of arcade games, a go kart track and small kids play area.
Catch the latest film at the Hollywood Plaza cinema
If you fancy watching the latest Blockbuster movie then Scarborough has a sweet little cinema with only one screen but plenty of old school charm. Check out the film schedule at Hollywood Plaza to find out whats on.
Hop on the North Bay Railway
The super sweet North Bay Railway has been running for almost 100 years and takes you from Peasholm Park to Scalby Mills. The whole journey is less than a mile but it’s a lovely little train and the views out to sea are delightful. This is another thing to do in Scarborough that most definitely won’t break the bank.
Hire a beach hut
If you still want spend time at the sea on a rainy day in Scarborough you can hire a perfectly cosy and sheltered beach hut for the day. These are located along the North Beach and are all painted vibrant colours with deck chairs, a sink and kettle. Plus there’s power if you need to charge up your devices. pop over to their website to hire a chalet.
Check out the local artwork
For just £3 you can spend a lovely few hours exploring the Scarborough Art Gallery . It has a constantly changing series of work so there’s always something new to see. You wont need to spend too long in the gallery so it’s the perfect place to escape a shower and kids are free!
Great value things to do in Scarborough with kids
Visit Scarborough Castle
This one could probably be included on the list of things to do in Scarborough for free. A walk up to the castle to view it from outside or a stroll along the castle walls is a must. Plus you can spot the castle from most coastal areas around town. But if you want to explore the castle closer you’ll have to buy a ticket. The castle is over 3,000 years old so it’s a great place for the kids to soak up a bit of history but they’ll also love the space to play and sweet little cafe full of tasty treats.
Ride the many funiculars and tramways
The walk from town down to South beach in Scarborough can be pretty steep, especially on little legs. Luckily there are plenty of tramways and funiculars to get you from the sand to the top. The journey is super cheap and speedy and I always find that kids love a unique way of travel. In fact they’ll probably enjoy it so much they’ll want to go up and down several times.
Have a go at surfing
There are several surf schools lining the beaches in Scarborough. We loved Dexters Surf School in the North Bay, you can hire everything you need and the instructors are brilliant with kids and beginners. They also offer paddle boarding, coasteering and kayaking if you don’t fancy surfing.
Have a game of mini golf
Mini golf seems to be a very popular pastime in Scarborough. There are several courses dotted around town but Captain Jacks Adventure Golf located on the promenade is one of the best. It’s a super cheap way to spend a few hours in Scarborough and kids will love the themed holes.
Swing through the trees
Little monkeys will love a chance to swing through the trees at Scarborough’s Skytrail next to the North Bay Railway station. It’s a two level rope and bridge course, very similar to Go Ape. Kids must be over 5 to use it, over 1 metre tall and accompanied by an adult.
Spend the day at Alpamere water park
The Leisure Centre in Scarborough is an excellent place to bring the kids. Located at the top end of North bay it has an amazing heated outdoor pool, slides, a splash area and a wave pool plus a little spa and outdoor bar for the adults.
Ride the big wheel
Who doesn’t love a big wheel?! And the one in Scarborough has to be in one of the best locations in the country. It’s 35 metres high and takes just ten minutes to complete the ride. This one is only open over the summer months.
Take a trip on a pirate ship
There are plenty of boat trips to try around the harbour area but I think kids will like the pirate ship “The Hispaniola” best. Walk along the harbour edge and you’ll find the ticket booth.
See a show in the open air theatre
I just love an open air concert and Scarborough’s open air theatre in the North Bay is a brilliant venue. Built in the 1930’s it has hosted some huge names over the years and this year looks set to be no different. They’ve got Crowded House, Frankie Valli, Bryan Adams and a-Ha over the coming months.
Take the open top bus around town
Whilst Scarborough is a very walkable town sometimes it’s nice to be driven around. You’ll see loads from an open top bus and it’s a great way to understand the layout of town. Day tickets are really cheap and you can hop on and off as many times as you want.
Use your outdoor voices at the funfair
Yet another British seaside must do is a visit to the funfair. The one in Scarborough is located down at the harbour below the castle. It has plenty of traditional rides and which are all pretty good value.
Great Day trips from Scarborough
Whilst Scarborough can feel super busy and touristy the small Yorkshire towns around it are not. There are plenty of quaint villages, miles of stunning coastline and beautiful beaches all pretty close to town.
Robin Hoods Bay
Just an half hour drive, Robin Hoods Bay makes for an excellent day trip from Scarborough. It’s super sweet with narrow cobbled streets winding down to the fishing harbour and beach. The town has plenty of pubs, independent shops and a coastguard museum.
Take a hike at Ravenscar
Just 20 minutes from Scarborough is a delightful stretch of coastline at Ravenscar. Managed by the National Trust you’ll find a fab cafe and several trail options ranging from an hour to several. One of the shorter routes include the old ruins of the Peak Alum works, a great place to develop an understanding of industry in the area. There’s also a fantastic beach at the bottom which is quite tricky to reach but worth it.
Just over half an hour’ drive is another tourist favourite. Whitby is a great place to visit with kids, they’ll love the vibrant atmosphere, tales of Dracula and views from the Abbey.
Just under an hours drive but well worth the trip for the fabulous beach, Runswick Bay is another charming town on the Yorkshire coast. It’s so good in fact the Times named it Beach of the year in 2020. This is not the place to visit for arcades and fancy restaurants so pack a picnic and enjoy a play in the sand and a walk along the coast.
About an hours drive away from Scarborough is another lovely town just slightly larger than Runswick Bay. Staithes again has a lovely sheltered beach and a fishing harbour close to the sea. This is another one where you’ll have to navigate narrow cobbled streets past colourful houses to the coast. This is a particularly good place in the area for fossil hunting.
15 minutes drive South of Scarborough is Filey, another popular seaside town in North Yorkshire. it has a lovely beach and village feel but kids will love Filey Country Park. It has loads of parking, plenty of play areas and a fantastic cafe. There’s heaps of space to run around and you may even see some dolphins whilst taking in the view out to sea.
Where to stay in Scarborough with kids
Self catering at the Sands
It’s always good to have a bit of space when visiting a new place with kids and having a kitchen makes preparing meals and picnics so much easier. Thats why I loved our stay in a luxury apartment at The Sands Scarborough. Located overlooking North Bay Beach it had everything we could possibly need plus a stunning balcony with view of the North Sea.
Crown Spa Hotel
The Crown Spa hotel offers amazing views over South Bay and is just 15 minutes walk down to the sea. It has a fitness centre and Spa and is located in a quieter part of town. Mini Suites also have a sofa bed, ideal for little kids.
Scarborough Grand Hotel
Probably the most famous hotel in Scarborough is the Grand. Its elegant exterior is as pretty as the view from inside although it is a little dated these days. It’s located right in the town centre making it easy to walk to everywhere in Scarborough. It has a nightly live music, bingo and family sized rooms.
Scarborough Premier Inn
We love a good Premier Inn, there’re great value with rooms that fit the whole family and you know exactly what you’re going to get before you arrive. The Premier Inn in North Bay is located right next to the Alpamere water park and has a great pub attached.
Where to eat in Scarborough with kids
Staring with one that is guaranteed to keep the kids happy with its selection of pizza and pasta Ask Italian is centrally located by the harbour. Scarborough is not really the place to be snobby about your food and there really is something comforting in the known.
Fish and chips
You cannot visit a British seaside town and not enjoy a takeaway chippy. There are loads located around Scarborough but the Lifeboat fish bar in the harbour regularly ranks as the best. Slather your order in salt and vinegar and take your dinner down to the seafront to enjoy while you’re watching the waves.
Flamingo Bay ice cream parlour
You can’t visit Scarborough with kids and not enjoy at least one or two ice creams. Flamingo Bay is one of many ice cream parlours in town, you can’t miss it due to its vibrant painted facade. They also serve amazingly decadent hot chocolates for when the weather is cold and delicious pancake deserts.
My favourite spot for lunch in Scarborough is the Beachcomber cafe on South Bay beach. This is basically just a kiosk with outdoor seating overlooking the sand. It does a small selection of hot and cold food and staff are always super friendly.
If crab sandwiches and buckets of prawns are your thing, be sure to visit one of the many food stalls lining the sea front. It’s all locally caught, super fresh and absolutely delicious.
Where to park in Scarborough
Whilst parking in Scarborough isn’t as bad as many British seaside towns you still may have a walk a way from your car to get anywhere. Whilst there are plenty of car parks to choose from it can get pretty busy over the peak summer holidays so aim to arrive good and early. Inside Our Suitcase has a great blog on where to park in Scarborough.
Have you been to Scarborough with kids? What are your favourite things to do in this British seaside town. Let me know in the comments so I can keep this post updated.
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