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Things to do in Redcar, Cleveland

Redcar sand dunes with steel blast furnace in the background
Steel Blast Furnace and Sand Dunes ©Shutterstock /Gordon Bell

Famous as being home to Yorkshire’s only coastal racecourse, Redcar is just north of Middlesborough and close to the River Tees estuary.

Its name comes from the Old English name meaning “reed marsh” as the town is on a low-lying site close to the sea. Redcar was a fishing community as long ago as in the 14th century.

Originally horse racing took place on the eight-mile long sandy beach at Coatham, but eventually an official race course was built at Redcar in the 1870s.

It continues to operate from its scenic 72-acre site and is within easy walking distance from the town.

When the Middlesborough to Redcar Railway was built in 1846, the town became a popular Victorian seaside resort for city dwellers looking to enjoy the bracing sea air and entertainment.


It had a pier built in the late 1860s which suffered a series of expensive mishaps. In 1880 the sailing vessel Luna hit the pier and broke through it, causing extensive damage. It was hit again in 1885 by the SS Cochrane when the landing stage was destroyed.

In 1897 a schooner crashed through the pier and shortly afterwards there was a fire which destroyed the bandstand.

Newly erected wind turbines off the coast at Redcar
Wind Turbines ©Shutterstock /bojangles

A grand ballroom was added in 1907 and was popular for a time.

Unfortunately the pier had to be deliberately sabotaged in 1940 to prevent it being used by an enemy invasion.

It was never repaired and was eventually declared unsafe and demolished in 1981.

The town expanded rapidly in the 19th century with the discovery of iron ore in the nearby Cleveland Hills which brought work and prosperity to the area.

Present Day Redcar

Redcar has a beautiful sandy beach lined with an esplanade. Just one block further back are the shops on the pedestrianized High Street. There are several local pubs and nightclubs in the town for evening entertainment.

Redcar Beacon - 80ft high and has seven floors.
Redcar Beacon ©Shutterstock /Bahadir Yeniceri

The town has 23 listed buildings including the red brick clock tower which was built to commemorate a famous regular visitor – King Edward VII.

The former turreted Coatham Hotel and the Zetland Lifeboat Museum are also listed buildings, along with an acoustic sound mirror used in World War I to detect Zeppelins.

A new landmark is the Redcar Beacon. Completed in 2012, it was designed as a vertical pier.

Redcar continues to have some steel production, currently under SSI Steel Industries. A small fishing fleet survives in Redcar, catching lobster, crabs and inshore fish.

Things to Do in Redcar

The long sandy beach still attracts visitors to Redcar and traditional donkey rides are operated by the sixth generation of the Burniston family.

There are fairground rides on the promenade and plenty of family entertainment and amusements. Boat trips and fishing trips can be booked from the harbour.

The area is popular for fossil-hunting for Gryphaea, also known as “Devil’s toenails”.

Racing at Redcar Racecourse takes place from April to November with 18 official meetings offering a fun day at the races.

Redcar is home to the Zetland, the oldest surviving lifeboat in the world, which is now displayed at the seafront museum managed by the RNLI. This lifeboat was originally commissioned in 1802 and was built in nearby South Shields.

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