OS grid reference:- NZ 779 185
Once one of the largest fishing ports on the North East coast, Staithes, once home to a small fleet of brightly coloured Whitby Cobles, is now largely dependent on tourism to support its economy.
The characterful coastal village of narrow winding streets has a sheltered harbour, bounded by high rugged cliffs of Penny Nab, Cowbar Nab, and Bias Scar and has two long breakwaters. Nowadays, the boats are used by local fishermen to catch cod, lobsters and crabs and short pleasure cruises are available. The small beach has a cluster of rock pools. The old town features stone fishermen's cottages and town houses, which huddle around alleys and flights of steps. The CBeebies television series Old Jack's Boat, starring Bernard Cribbins, is set in and filmed in the village, Old Jack's house is located at 4 Cowbar Bank.
Staithes lifeboat station is situated on the North side of the river. The station is open to the public and relates the story of the local life boat crew. The lifeboat station was established at Staithes in 1875, but in 1922 was forced to close due to the considerable difficulty in launching the lifeboat and in finding a crew, owing to the decline of fishing.
Staithes's most famous resident, the eighteenth century explorer Captain James Cook (1728 -1779) was born in Marton near Middlesbrough, but lived at the village from 1745 to 46, where he worked as a grocer's apprentice to William Sanderson. Staithes is where he first felt the lure of the sea while gazing out of the shop window. Later, having been introduced to friends of Sanderson's, John and Henry Walker, local ship-owners, he moved to nearby Whitby where he joined the Royal Navy.
William Sanderson's shop, where Cook worked, was destroyed by the sea, but parts were recovered and incorporated into "Captain Cook's Cottage", which has been the home of a local Staithes family for several generations. A heritage centre on the High Street contains a great deal of memorabilia and antiquities relating to him, along with a re-creation of the grocer's shop where he once worked. Cook will have known the 'Cod and Lobster' pub which stands on the seafront beside Sanderson's shop. It is still present today, but he might not recognise it as in Cook's time it was a single-storey building. It is built so close to the sea that in the past sections of the building have been reduced to rubble by violent North Sea storms.
The character of the village was recognized at the end of the Victorian era when the Staithes Group of artists became centred there. George Weatherill, the so-called 'Turner of the North' had worked in Staithes earlier in the nineteenth century, and at the end of that century Laura and Harold Knight, and Frederick Jackson, came to the village.
Staithes is also a destination for geologists researching the Jurassic strata in the cliffs which surround the village. In the early 1990s, a rare fossil of a seagoing dinosaur was discovered after a rockfall between Staithes and Port Mulgrave to the south.