A UK break in Whitley Bay: Northeast seafood, beach strolls and the Spanish City

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  • Travel

This Tyne and Wear seaside town charms with its Blue Flag beach, regenerated town centre and inventive food.

Published May 17, 2023

5 min read

This article was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Whitley Bay was once best known for its caravan parks and fairground attractions, but things have changed over the past decade. Major refurbishments have blown the dust off this arty corner of Tyne and Wear, helping to place the old seaside favourite firmly back on the map. 

The mile-long sandy beach, which has been Blue Flag-certified every year since 1994, is a big draw. Brave locals swim and paddleboard year-round, and surfers are well served by North Atlantic swells. For families and those who’d rather stay on the shore, a sandcastle competition is held here every year in late July or early August.

What to do 

Also known as The Dome, the Spanish City arts and leisure centre was first built in the early 1900s. Having been closed to the public for almost two decades, this Edwardian beauty was restored back to its former glory in 2018. It’s now home to restaurants, a tearoom and a Champagne bar — a great place to swing by at the start of an evening out. Afterwards, stop by the Whitley Bay Playhouse, hosting a variety of performances from up-and-coming comedians and quirky plays to pop acts and children’s magic shows.

For a bit of quiet, visit Seaton Delaval Hall, a Grade I-listed country house around a 10-minute drive from the town. The house is a fine example of English baroque architecture, and the gardens, which include a wooded play area, are glorious.

Where to eat 

Come on Fridays and Saturdays to enjoy The Roxburgh’s six-course tasting dinner. The menu changes regularly, but expect an excellent wine list and food that highlights the best of the northeast’s produce: typical dishes include venison with beetroot, apple and thyme or hispi cabbage with green sauce and smash. Playful touches abound, such as homemade cola bottle sweets, while the eclectic soundtrack takes in everything from The Stooges to Patsy Cline.

For a quicker bite, brunch-lovers should make a beeline for the family-run Kith & Kin. The Aussie is a heavenly mix of halloumi, beetroot hummus, mushrooms, kale, fried egg and dukkah (a Middle Eastern blend of nuts, seeds, sesame and spices).

Where to stay

Just a few minutes’ walk from the beach, the four-star York House Hotel overlooks Whitley Bay Park and the white dome of Spanish City. The 18 bedrooms are spacious and elegant, and come with breakfast. Go for a full English with all the trimmings or local kippers, with buck’s fizz served at the weekends. From £115, B&B. 

We like 

England’s first ‘pay as you please’ cinema, Jam Jar shows both blockbusters and indie options. After catching a movie, take the 10-minute walk to Marine Avenue for ice cream at Di Meo’s. The family-run business won a Great Taste Award last year thanks to its inventive parsnip with wine and raisin ripple flavour. More traditional options are also available, all made with fresh ingredients and milk sourced from local dairy farms. 

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