The North York Moors is a national park in North Yorkshire famous for its vast expanses of purple heather, forests, moorland and dramatic 26 mile coast.
The North York Moors has it all; seaside towns, unforgettable wildlife experiences, theme parks, the Dalby Forest, and also Malton, one of the foodie capitals of the UK. There are some fantastic family friendly cycling trails, world class train rides and at the end of the day, you can return to one of the cozy cottages, log cabins or even a converted train carriage which are located in and around the North York Moors.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about the North York Moors with toddlers, and why you should add it to your toddler holiday bucket list.
Where Is The North York Moors National Park?
The North York Moors is located in the north of England bordering the east coast.
The nearest largest mainland train station is York, from where you can hire a car or get a local train to one of the market towns in the Moors. I’d recommend a car to get around, because then you have the flexibility of getting out and about in the Moors without relying on the limited bus link.
Reasons Why The North York Moors National Park Is Great For Toddlers
1. 26 Mile Coastline To Explore
Sandwiched in between the moors, and the North Sea is the 26 mile North York Moors coastline. This heritage coast is famous for its fishing villages, seaside towns, hidden bays and dramatic cliffs dotted along the coast.
We love Saltburn, just outside Whitby, with its sandy beach and small stream running down it which is perfect for making dams. Another gem is Runswick Bay, which is regularly voted one of Yorkshire’s prettiest spots, and has a long sweeping bay which is sheltered, and great for paddling and sandcastle building. Robin Hoods Bay is famous for its smuggling past, and houses hugging the side of the cliffs, but is also good for rockpooling and fossil hunting – see below. There are loads of days out at the seaside in the North York Moors, but there is also plenty to do inland too.
2. Day Out At Whitby
Don’t miss a day out at Whitby, when you are on holiday in the North York Moors. The sun always shines in Whitby – well, maybe not ALL the time, but when it does the best place to be is the beach. West Cliff Beach has almost 2 miles of sand and is framed by colourful beach huts against the backdrop of the cliffs. There are donkey rides in the summer, and there is plenty of space for toddlers to make sandcastles, paddle in the sea and collect shells. On West Bay Cliff, there is an outdoor paddling pool where toddlers can splash away to their heart’s content.
Pannett Park is well worth a visit with small children. Recently redeveloped, Pannett Park has a Jurassic garden, state of the art playground and wooded areas for the whole family to enjoy.
Read More – 9 Things To Do In Whitby With Toddlers.
3. Afternoon Tea In Malton
The market town of Malton, has reinvented itself as ‘Yorkshire’s Food Capital’, and used to be the home of James Martin. There is a weekly thriving food market, monthly food market with live cooking demos and music, and various other foodie festivals and events throughout the year.
Malton is a great place to wander round and soak up the atmosphere. A popular place to go for afternoon tea is The Patisserie where you can also choose something from the bakery to take out if you prefer.
4. Flamingo Land (And The New Peter Rabbit Playground)
Flamingo Land is a theme park, zoo and resort in the North York Moors National Park. One of the best things at Flamingo Land is the brand new Peter Rabbit Adventure attraction, where toddlers can help Peter Rabbit find Pig Robinson’s Brussel sprouts, join Peter, Lilly and Benjamin in their Secret Treehouse and try out Benjamin Bunny’s Treetop Trail. There are also giant instruments (at Jeremy Fisher’s musical pond), and an art master class at Pig Robinson’s Farm. Toddlers can even crawl through tunnels in Lily Bobtail’s Nature Discovery and find creepy crawlies in the Bug Log.
5. Have A Trip On The North York Moors Railway
The iconic North Yorkshire Moors Railway is an 18 mile heritage railway which runs from the market town of Pickering in North Yorkshire, through the North York Moors towards Whitby. There are various stations along the way which you can stop off at including Goathland, which is famous for being Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films, and Aidensfield in Heartbeat.
The train takes aprox 2 hours to do the full journey from Pickering to Whitby, so a return trip may be too long for impatient toddlers. An alternative is to go from Pickering to Grosmont, which takes aprox 1 hour, and have lunch at the family friendly Old School House café and have a look around the Engine Sheds and Grosmont before returning to Pickering.
Read More – A Day Out On The North York Moors Railway
6. Explore The Dalby Forest
Dalby, the Great Yorkshire Forest is located on the southern slopes of the North York Moors and has over 8,000 acres of woodland to explore, including play areas for children, barbecues, and plenty of marked cycling and walking trails. Toddlers will love the Gruffalo Trail – don’t forget to download the Gruffalo Spotters app beforehand to bring it all to life! The wide, traffic free family cycling trails are also great for toddlers learning how to ride their bikes, and also toddlers on balance bikes. Bike hire is available at the Forest.
7. Unmissable Helmsley
Helmsley is another thriving market town on the edge of the North York Moors, with a large market square, bustling market and loads of tea rooms.
Just outside the town centre is the award winning National Centre for Birds of Prey. As well as seeing birds of prey, such as the tiny terrestrial Burrowing Owl and the mighty Steller’s Sea Eagle, the National Centre for Birds of Prey houses the largest collection of birds of prey in the north of England.
Run by a team of passionate experts, the highlight of a day out at the Bird of Prey Centre is the flying demos where you can see these incredible birds in action. The demos take place in the morning and in the afternoon, and your ticket is valid all day, so it is possible to spend a morning going round the centre and watch the 1st flying demo, pop to Helmsley for lunch, and then go back to the Centre in the afternoon for the 2nd flying demo.
Another highlight of Helmsley is the outdoor swimming pool. Only open in the summer months, the pool is heated (although it can still be chilly!), but it is THE place to go on a sunny day.
Read More – 59 Things To Do In Yorkshire With Toddlers
8. Robins Hood Bay
Robin Hoods Bay is a little fishing village on the North York Moors coast, which has a large beach, lots of rockpools and is also a good spot to go fossil hunting.
There is also a nice toddler friendly walk along the beach (at low tide only) to Boggle Hole Bay. This walk would take an adult about 15 minutes at a fast pace, but with a toddler you can take as long as you like and stop off along the way to explore. At Boggle Hole, there is a new YHA which has a family friendly café, which is open to the public, where you can refuel before heading back to Robin Hoods Bay along the beach. Check tide times beforehand as this walk is only accessible at low tide.
9. Visiting ‘Old Jack’s Boat’ At Staithes
Another day trip out in the North York Moors National Park is to Staithes where the Cbeebies programme ‘Old Jack’s Boat’ is filmed. Toddlers will love seeing the little boats in the harbour and playing on the small beach. You may even see Salty!
10. Sutton Bank National Park Centre
James Herriot declared the view from the top of Sutton Bank over the Vale of Mowbray, and the Vale of York, the ‘finest in England’. Nowadays, you can see the view for yourself by visiting the Sutton Bank National Park Centre. The Centre has free entry, and there is a café, family friendly 3 mile cycle trail, which follows the famous cliff edge with the view, and an adventure playground.
11. Stay In Converted Train Carriages
Located just east of Pickering, The Old Station at Allerston offers three self-catering railway carriages which are perfect to stay in with a toddler. They have been fully restored, and each carriage is equipped with central heating, oven, hob, microwave, fridge, TV, DVD, radio and a bath with shower attachment.
Outside, there are 2 acres of grounds for toddlers to play in with views of the open countryside. Each carriage has its own picnic table and BBQs are available. The platform is great for riding bikes and scooters up and down, and there is a selection of toys and games to borrow during your stay.
The carriages are just 30 minutes from the seaside and are close to the Dalby Forest and York. We stayed here for 3 nights, and loved it!
Read More – 5 Train Carriages To Stay In With A Toddler