A Victorian family resort, Bridlington took off as an escape for industrial workers in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the 19th century.
The old-fashioned delights of an English coastal town are all here, like promenades, a ballroom, theatre, ice cream parlours, tearooms and shops selling rock candy and buckets and spades.
Dating back further is Bridlington’s Medieval priory, turned into a parish church in the 16th century, and harbour, which still has a small fleet hauling in shellfish from the North Sea.
Bridlington has a cosy Old Town, and the chalk cliffs on Flamborough Head to the north are a nesting site for bird species like puffins and gannets.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Bridlington:
1. Sewerby Hall and Gardens
This picture perfect early-Georgian house dates mostly from 1714 and is in 50 acres of manicured gardens.
The interior has been restored to itsEdwardian appearance at the start of the 20th century and has a room dedicated to Amy Johnson, the pioneer aviator who officially opened the house to the public in 1936. Tours are given on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 11:30 all through the summer.
In the grounds is a zoo with mostly domestic animals, but a few exotic species like capuchin monkeys, pygmy goats, llamas and Humboldt penguins.
Take a while to mosey around the grounds, made up of mature woodland, a pleasure garden shaded by monkey puzzle trees, a rose garden and a walled garden with topiaries, formal flower beds and herbaceous borders.
2. Bridlington South Beach
The South Beach at Bridlington is bounded to the north by the Harbour and arcs gently down the coast for a mile.
Beyond that there’s a beachfront continuing for 40 miles south to the Spurn National Nature Reserve on the Humber Estuary.
But back in Bridlington the wide sandy beach is just what you need on a hot summer’s day, cooled by a breeze wafting in from the North Sea.
The sand is tracked by a promenade, with deck chairs and beach chalets for hire, while for little ones there’s a land train and paddling pool.
If you value peace and space, just walk south to leave the resort behind in a couple of hundred metres.
3. Bridlington Old Town
Bridlington is at its prettiest in the Medieval core, along the High Street and restored Market Place around a mile in from the waterfront.
The High Street is an unexpected delight, weaving between tall Georgian houses with bay windows, home to craft shops, pubs, galleries and tea rooms.
The Georgian Tea Rooms are a sophisticated place for a spot of indulgence.
The Market Place is also gorgeous, framed by handsome buildings like the Corn Exchange House from 1826. You can pick up a free leaflet from the Tourist Information Centre, which will lead you along the Old Town Trail to see the best bits.
4. Bridlington Harbour
Still a working fishing port, Bridlington Harbour is a real slice of North Sea life, where you can watch the waves break against the piers and see trawlers unloading their daily catch of shellfish onto the quay.
Some of this is sold locally, but most is destined for Spain, France and Italy.
On Harbour road there’s a continuous row of fish and chip shops, ice cream parlours, seafood restaurants and gift shops, as well as the odd stand selling crab fresh from the north sea.
Come here for trips out into Bridlington Bay on the beloved Yorkshire Belle.
5. Bridlington Priory Church
The town’s parish church was established as an Augustinian priory in 1113, which grew in importance over the next 400 years and owned land across Yorkshire at its peak.
The priory was also fortified with walls following the conflict between King Stephen and Empress Matilda later in the 12th century.
The priory was closed down in 1538 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the nave, the last remaining structure, became the parish church.
The remainder of the church was restored in the 19th century under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott, Victorian England’s busiest restorer.
Architectural fragments of the old monastic buildings can be seen inside, like three Romanesque arches from the cloisters.
6. Flamborough Head
Sewerby is the gateway to a striking promontory, eight miles long and with high chalk cliffs, majestic from land or sea.
The headland and swathe of the interior country side is protected as a natural reserve, the Flamborough Headland Heritage Coast.
The cliffs are ecologically crucial as a nesting site for thousands of seabirds, which we’ll talk about in more detail next.
When the tide is out you can walk down to the base of the cliffs beside the lighthouse to explore the rockpools and take in a photogenic view of these white layered walls.
7. RSPB Bempton Cliffs
The rock faces all along Flamborough Head are riddled with little crevices where guillemots, razorbills, gannets, puffins, fulmars and kittiwakes make their nests.
The cliffs west of the headland have been designated a nature reserve for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). This one spot is home to 10% of the entire UK population of kittiwakes.
Some 500,000 birds congregate here in the nesting season between March and October, and there’s an RSPB visitor centre outlining each species.
You can rent binoculars from the centre and take part in guided bird-spotting hikes.
Bempton Cliffs can also be viewed from the Yorkshire Belle, Bridlington’s historic pleasure boat.
8. Flamborough Head Lighthouse
At the eastern tip of Flamborough Head is the lighthouse, guiding sea traffic along the treacherous coastline between Bridlington and Scarborough since 1806. There was a lighthouse keeper at Flamborough Head until as recently as 1996. Now fully automated, the signal has a range of 24 miles, and in summer you can check out the visitor centre and take a 20-minute tour to the top of the tower.
There’s another much earlier chalk tower, dating to 1669 and officially the oldest intact lighthouse in England.
Known as the Light Tower, this was raised after more than 170 ships had been wrecked on this length of coast in under 40 years.
9. Bridlington Spa
A ballroom, theatre and gallery in one complex, the Bridlington Spa (1896) dominates the South Beach from the Spa Promenade.
Two fires in 1906 and 1932 took out most of the earliest structures, apart from elements of the Edwardian opera house, dating to 1907 surviving in the Spa Theatre.
After that second fire Bridlington Spa was reconstructed with the current Art Deco design, and the whole building went through a big restoration a decade ago.
The Royal Hall, initially used as a ballroom, has become a major live music venue, and stadium rock bands like Oasis, Kasabian and the Last Shadow Puppets have taken advantage of its 3,800 capacity.
On a typical night you can see what’s on at the 675-seater Spa Theatre, which books touring musicals and plays: Madagascar The Musical, Fame and Blood Brothers were all on the programme in summer 2018.
10. Burton Agnes Hall
This Elizabethan stately home has been in the Cunliffe-Lister family since it was completed at the start of the 17th century.
The architect was Robert Smithson, master-mason to Queen Elizabeth I, and Burton Agnes Hall is the only one of his houses to keep its original plan.
The interior is bursting with valuable objects picked up by the family over more than 400 years, like tapestries, French Impressionist paintings and furniture, both historic and contemporary.
The gardens feature a national collection of campanulas, a jungle garden, herbaceous borders and a walled garden growing more than 4,000 plant species.
11. North Landing Beach
On the north side of Flamborough Head, the cliffs part at this sand and pebble cove.
The view from the cliff-tops over the beach is one to cherish, and at low tide you can amble down to the beach to look back at the chalk walls and go rockpooling.
On a hot, sunny day the clear water and grassy cliffs are more like the North of Spain than the North of England.
There’s a slipway and a small fleet of fishing boats on the slope behind the beach.
These are pulled up the beach with a caterpillar when the tide is out.
12. Bondville Model Village
Just beside Sewerby Hall and Gardens at the top of the Sewerby Cliffs is a quintessential English seaside attraction.
Opening every summer since 1987, Bondville Model Village has swelled to more than 200 buildings and is found in acres of pristine gardens ringed by trees.
Every model has been hand-crafted to a 1:12 scale, and what’s unusual about this village is that model train also conforms to that scale.
The village has a (human scale) Garden Tearoom, on a terrace overlooking the attraction, and unlike the village, this is open all year.
13. Bayle Museum
The second of Bridlington’s Grade I-listed buildings along with the Priory Church, the Bayle Gate is what’s left of the priory’s fortifications.
Since the priory was dissolved the Bayle has been a gaol, garrison, court and town hall.
Composed of a mix of brick and limestone, most of the Bayle is from the second half of the 12th century, with two pointed Gothic arches under traceried windows.
You can go in Monday to Friday from 11:00 to 16:00 to poke around the timber interiors of this historic structure.
The exhibition comprises models, black and white photographs of Bridlington, documents, Regimental artefacts and a couple of interactive stations for kids about Medieval life.
14. Bridlington Birds of Prey and Animal Park
This ever-growing animal attraction has birds and mostly domestic animals over 21 acres.
In the aviaries are birds of prey from around the world, including eight different owl species, raptors like kestrels, falcons and buzzards, ratites such as ostriches, emus and rheas, and a variety of parrots.
There are two flying displays each day, and an owl handling demonstration, while you can also sign up for a special animal experience to go face-to-face with a bird of prey or meerkats.
Among the mammals are Shetland ponies, pigs, llamas, guinea pigs, donkeys, tanuki and Bennett’s wallabies.
15. Yorkshire Belle
The pleasure boat chugging out into the sheltered waters of Bridlington Bay is a piece of heritage of its own.
The Yorkshire Belle was launched at Hull’s Cook, Welton & Gemmell shipyard in 1951 and is the last of Bridlington’s original six cruise boats.
The trip schedule starts at Easter and carries on until October, and the most regular trip is a one-hour cruise northeast to Flamborough Head and back.
There’s commentary during the trip and the Yorkshire Belle has a licensed bar on board.
If you’re up for some nature spotting, the longer cruises to Bempton Cliffs or Breil Hawk to spot gannets, puffins and kittiwakes.