Lining the lower reaches of the River Tees and encompassing the five authorities of Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesborough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees, Tees Valley is a somewhat secret hub of seaside escapes and heritage delights. Here’s our guide on the best things to do in this corner of northeast England.
With restrictions easing across England, please continue to follow government guidance and remember to plan ahead and check attraction websites before travelling. Take a look at our top tips on how to escape the everyday responsibly to see how you can make the most out of your day trips and breaks.
Feast on fresh fish and chips
Saltburn-by-the-sea, Redcar and Cleveland
Seagulls won’t be bothering you for your food at the Seaview Restaurant, which overlooks Saltburn’s long stretch of golden sands. With much of its produce sourced from respected fish merchants that use sustainable methods, the menu is dictated by the catch of the day and tends to change each week. Opt to sit in the luxury indoor restaurant, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows with views across the shoreline, or soak up the sun on the balcony. Who knew fish and chips could be so fancy?
Built in 1817, HMS Trincomalee is one of the oldest ships afloat in Europe, and is the last of Nelson’s frigates. Now housed at the award-winning National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool, the ship transports you back to an 18th-century seaport, immersing you in the lives of the navy 200 years ago. You’ll meet sailors from the Georgian Navy who lived on board the ship, discover how tradesmen earned their wage and even experience the firepower of guns and cannons with live demonstrations.
Grab your squad – you’re in for the ride of your life. At Tees Barrage International White Water Centre, you’ll weave, spin, surf and crash your way through a maze of twists, turns and sudden stops, trying your best not to get completely soaked. This adrenaline-fuelled activity is led by an expert guide who’ll help you get to grips with the rapids – and, if you have what it takes, you might even get the chance to tackle the biggest artificial drop in the whole of the UK. If that sounds too extreme, the site also has canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and raft-building experiences.
Remember that famous film trilogy featuring houses hidden under mounds of grass, with those iconic round doors? Well, you can stay in one just like them at North Shire. This family-oriented campsite, also home to a variety of furry residents (including miniature ponies) is dotted with quirky accommodations doused with a touch of magic. North Shire also features the Grounds Keeper’s Cottage whose medieval-looking turrets, copper bath and mismatched stained-glass windows make it the perfect hideaway for aspiring witches and wizards. Or, for a truly opulent stay, get cosy in the Dorm Room, complete with four-poster beds, flickering candles and a touch of magic.
Climb the 210 steps to the top of Transporter Bridge and take in epic views before jumping off. Feel the wind in your hair (and your lungs – you’re bound to be screaming) as you fall 160 feet towards the River Tees. The only bridge bungee in the whole of England, you’re in for a unique treat. And if an NBS news anchor can brave the jump, broadcasting live to eight million American viewers, so can you.
Please note that the Transporter Bridge is currently closed.
Dating back to the 14th century, this Viking fortress brings history to life with its ornate halls and chambers housing fabulous interiors and art collections. One of the best things to do in Darlington, you’ll get a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived here in the past, and see what means of transport they used in the Coach House and Stables. Surrounding the castle is 200 acres of lush green parkland and well-kept gardens. Spot wildlife in the deer park, wander around the ornamental walled garden and stop off for some fresh scones at the tea room.
Escape the hustle and bustle of towns and cities with a trip to Guisborough Forest on the northern edge of the North York Moors National Park. A mosaic of habitats – from woodland to wetlands and grasslands – here you’ll encounter nothing but the sights, sounds and smells of nature. There are a number of bike trails on offer, as well as an orienteering course, circular waymarked walks and a sculpture trail that’s ideal for little legs. And for all your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with stunning scenery and views over Tees Valley and the coast.
If you just want to slow things down, stay the night at the luxury Rockliffe Hall and take advantage of its award-winning spa. Take a dip in the indoor pool or hydro pool, release pent-up tension in the Infrared room, stimulate circulation in the ice igloo and unwind in the high-humidity Tropicarium. The outdoor Spa Garden is a treat too, with hot tub, glass-fronted sauna and gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. And if you want to truly indulge, book in for a holistic spa treatment – the menu includes hot stone massages, exquisite facials and Himalayan salt rituals.