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The best places to go surfing in Yorkshire holiday cottages

The best places to go surfing in Yorkshire

Courtney Kelly 17 May 2023

Northern England usually plays second fiddle to the south when it comes to surfing, but don’t be fooled: Yorkshire’s surfing beaches provide some of the best wave riding in the country.

Incorporating an east coast that boasts some of the UK’s finest shores, as well as sought-after towns and villages that are perfect for family holidays full of outdoor activities, surfing in Yorkshire is as quintessentially English as roast dinner with Yorkshire pudding.

Read on to discover Yorkshire's best beaches for surfing as well as where you can book lessons for surfing the Yorkshire coast. Alternatively, duck dive straight into our Yorkshire cottage collection and find a gnarly coastal holiday home where you can hang your wetsuit and tell stories of wipe outs.


Paddle out to:


Saltburn-by-the-Sea

The lines come in at Saltburn

Having arrived in Saltburn-by-the-Sea in the early 1960s, surf culture in the coastal town now has a huge following. One of the first places on the east coast to produce an interest in surfing, thanks to the late John Smith, Saltburn is where many north-east maiden surfers experienced their first taste of the North Sea rollers.

With the roots of east coast surfing firmly hooked into this once-sleepy beachside village, Saltburn surfing is perfect for those who like a bit of nostalgia with their wave riding, even if there are arguably better surfing beaches in the area. The sandbar around the pier creates popular peaks and, to the south, Penny’s Hole delivers some appealing lefts and rights. Further south still is Saltburn Point, a reef break that throws out fast right-handers.

  • Postcode: TS12 1HQ
  • Facilities: Beachside car park by surf shop, toilets, shops, slipway
  • Good for: All abilities (beginners should stay close to the pier)
  • Nearest surf school: Saltburn Surf School
  • Stay nearby: The Cottage | Sleeps 4 ­­+ 2 dogs

Runswick Bay

A view of Runswick Bay

If you have been to Saltburn and it’s all blown out or it’s just too big for you, that’s when Runswick Bay comes into its own. There are several reefs in this sheltered bay (one providing a favourable right-hander) as well as a point break. Winter and spring are the best times to visit as you’ll find pretty consistent surf during these seasons.

You’re not likely to be crowded out as most surfers will head to Saltburn and Whitby, and if you respect the local surfers, it is said they will welcome you onto the peak. The best conditions at Runswick occur at low to mid tide during a northern swell with onshore south-westerly winds, just watch out for submerged rocks and the occasional rip.

  • Postcode: TS13 5HT
  • Facilities: Two pay and display car parks, toilets just by the beach, pub near car park
  • Good for: Competent surfers
  • Nearest surf school: Whitby Surf School
  • Stay nearby: Puffin Lodge | Sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Sandsend

Sandsend on a still day

Just 2.5 miles up the coast from Whitby, upon the same stretch of shore, you’ll find Sandsend, which is one of the east coast’s best beach breaks, offering lefts and rights. Not only is this a great spot for a surf with its strong RNLI lifeguard presence, but it’s also one of the most beautiful beaches along the coast, with jaw-dropping vistas of the verdant promontory jutting out into the water.

The surf starts at 1-2ft but can get much bigger if you can handle a long paddle. If the swell is north-easterly, the sandbanks produce short, hollow waves, with mid to high tide being your best bet for these waves. Winter and spring are the best seasons and you’re likely to find crowds here throughout the year (locals in winter/spring, holidaymakers in summer/autumn).

  • Postcode: YO21 3SZ
  • Facilities: Car parks at the north and south ends of the beach, toilets by the beach, pub and beach cafe
  • Good for: All abilities, although inexperienced surfers should stick close to the shore
  • Nearest surf school: Whitby Surf School
  • Stay nearby: The Beach House - Sandsend | Sleeps 6

Whitby

The pier, waves and colourful beach huts of Whitby

You’ll find that Whitby is an extremely popular place to be whether the surf is decent or not. The seaside town hosts a number of events and conventions, and has several attractions that people come for from far and wide. Similarly, surfers go to great lengths to visit Whitby which has beaches on either side of the River Esk. West Cliff is the most popular beach and this is where you’ll find the surf. Although, when the swell is particularly large, it is possible to surf the waves that hit Tate Hill Beach within the actual harbour (we recommend leaving this brand of surfing in Whitby to the locals!).

The main beach/pier break has consistent surf that can become excellent at low to three-quarter tide, although it is surfable at all stages of the tide. You’ll find that waves at the beach break both left and right, and if you are confident in what you’re doing, you can use the rip next to the wall to aid you in your paddle out.

  • Postcode: YO21 3PT
  • Facilities: Two pay and display car parks and toilets at West Cliff, and a plethora of shops, pubs and cafes in the area
  • Good for: Beginner – intermediate surfers
  • Nearest surf school: Whitby Surf School
  • Stay nearby: Amber Rose | Sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Robin Hood’s Bay

A view of Robin Hood's Bay and the village

Robin Hood’s Bay is one of those iconic places, instantly recognisable in a photograph thanks to its immeasurably beautiful village and beach. It forms part of the Dinosaur Coast, but you’ll be pleased to hear that surfing is far from extinct at this beach. The exposed reef break produces consistent lefts and rights, and there are also left and right beach breaks.

Like the other breaks in the area, winter and spring are the best times to visit, especially when there is offshore wind coming in from the west. You’re unlikely to be crowded out on the waves as not many surfers frequent the bay, even though sometimes it’s the only workable surf on the east coast.

  • Postcode: YO22 4SN
  • Facilities: Two pay and display car parks in the village (none by the beach), toilets by the beach, and a plethora of shops, pubs and cafes in the village
  • Good for: Intermediate – experienced surfers
  • Nearest surf school: Whitby Surf School
  • Stay nearby: Albion Hall | Sleeps 10

Scarborough

Scarborough North Bay

North Bay

As the UK’s first-ever holiday beach resort, it’s widely known that tourists have flocked here since the 17th century due to the quality of the water. And even though the water to which we’re referring is the natural spring water and not the north-easterly swells out in the bay, it’s evident that Scarborough is still the largest seaside holiday resort on the Yorkshire coast today.

North Bay offers an exposed reef and point break that has fairly consistent surf composed of lefts and rights. It’s a popular spot that makes the most of its aspect to receive swells from the northeast. Be aware that at high tide, the waves bounce off the sea wall and other sea defences so you’re best sticking to lower tides when surfing in Scarborough.


South Bay

Clean lines at Scarborough South Bay

As you’d expect, Scarborough draws the crowds in throughout the year, but it is during the winter that the surf scene really comes alive. With powerful groundswell descending from the North Sea, sheltered South Bay is one of the few spots in the area that produces clean surf, thanks to the headland upon which sits the iconic Scarborough Castle.

The breaks here are point and beach which go both left and right, and due to the sheltered nature of the bay, you’re likely to find crowds here when the surf is up. Again, watch out for the sea wall at high tide.

  • Postcode: YO11 2QE
  • Facilities: Plenty of parking on Marine Drive, public toilets at both beaches, a plethora of shops, pubs and cafes near the north end of South Bay
  • Good for: Beginner – intermediate surfers
  • Nearest surf school: Dexters Surf Shop, School & Hire Centre Ltd (North Bay) and Fluid Concept Surf School And Shop (South Bay)
  • Stay nearby: Ridsdale House | Sleeps 5 + 1 dog

Cayton Bay

A surfer heads in at Cayton Bay

Cayton Bay, which is just down the coast a little from Scarborough, is an exposed beach in terms of swell and offers a number of waves for surfers of all abilities. The most popular and well-known break is Bunkers, which is a rocky beach break so it’s best to leave this one well alone if you’re just starting out. It’s so named due to the Second World War bunkers you surf towards on the beach and works best at mid to high tide.

At the bottom of the slip road in the middle of the bay is where you’ll find Pumphouse. This rocky reef break produces lefts and rights, with the lefts being more favourable. The final wave here is Cayton Point, an exposed point break that is a dependable left. It probably won’t be too crowded due to the rocky hazards, and due to this, we recommend it only for advanced surfers.

  • Postcode: YO11 3NR
  • Facilities: Parking in the surf shop car park, beach shack cafe, toilets
  • Good for: All abilities, although Bunkers and Cayton Point are more suited to experienced surfers
  • Nearest surf school: Cayton Bay Surf Shop and Scarborough Surf School
  • Stay nearby: Sea Views Three 37 | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Hunmanby Gap

Four surfers in the shallows

It’s been said that Hunmanby Gap produces small, unreliable waves but this beach break offers lefts and rights that can be epic longboard waves on its day. It’s a great spot for beginner surfers as the pencil-like peninsula of Filey Brigg prevents most of the big waves from getting through. If Cayton looks too big or messy, then head to this sheltered bay.

It’s easy to find and has free parking, and you might find it crowded with holidaymakers in the summer but there’s no swell during the warmer seasons anyway. It’s worth visiting at mid-tide to get the optimal conditions, just watch out for some dangerous rips.

  • Postcode: YO14 9QP
  • Facilities: Free beach car park, café on the beach, toilets at nearby Filey Bay, shop and pub in nearby Primrose Valley (lots more in Filey)
  • Good for: Beginner surfers
  • Nearest surf school: Cayton Bay Surf Shop and Scarborough Surf School
  • Stay nearby: Madge's Place | Sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Yorkshire surf schools

An instructor teaches two girls on the beach

Accredited by Surfing England and the International Surfing Association, Saltburn Surf School has been providing professional coaching since 1983. They also have a surf shop selling new and second-hand surf equipment or you can hire out all the gear you’ll need.

Another school in Saltburn, Flow Surf School offers group surf lessons (if you’re on your own, you’ll be added to an existing group) and year-round equipment hire – they’ll even deliver it to your cottage! They have a shop offering the best-in-class for cold-water surfers as well as some sustainable clothing.

With an award-winning beach to gaze upon as you're surfing, Whitby is a great place to learn to surf. Whitby Surf School provides group or private surf lessons and even has a holiday beach club if you’re bringing along nippers and want to immerse them in some east coast surf whilst on holiday. They have a wide range of equipment to hire out if you prefer to leave your gear at home and they also have an online surf shop.

Located on Scarborough North Bay, Dexters is a family-run business that’s fully accredited by Surfing England. You can get coaching as part of a group or a private lesson tailored to your needs. As with all the schools in the area, Dexters offers equipment hire and a shop.

On Scarborough South Bay, you’ll find Fluid Concept, one of the UK’s oldest surf schools. Open at weekends and then during the week by appointment only, you’ll have one of the UK’s most experienced surf instructors on hand for your one-to-one or group lesson. You can hire equipment or buy your gear outright in the shop.

Positioned a little further down the coast from Scarborough at Cayton Bay, Scarborough Surf School is the east coast’s longest-running surf school, operating year-round seven days a week. They say they have taught more people than any other school in the region and cater for newbies or those who just want a top-up after a period out of the sea. They have a shop and hire out all sorts of equipment and even have free hot showers on hand for that post-surf warm-up!


Map of the best Yorkshire surfing locations

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Plan your Yorkshire surfing holiday

Now that you know all there is to know about North Yorkshire surfing, you’re going to want to find a cosy cottage where you can rest up, vote for who caught the best wave and prepare for another day of shredding tomorrow. Some of our cottages have wood burners to warm up numb toes, some have enclosed gardens for hanging out wetsuits and some have hot tubs if you just can’t get enough of the water. Click below to search our coastal properties.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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