Combine culture, history and wildlife with beach time on a visit to York Beach, close to the town of the same name in the central part of the Freetown Peninsula. Learn about Krio culture and the legacy of the slave trade, and marvel at humpback whales during the yearly migration.
York Beach is approximately 5 km south of River No.2, about 40 km south of Freetown. It’s definitely easier to get there by private car or taxi, with about an hour travel time, which will also give you the chance to visit other beaches in the vicinity. Alternatively, it’s possible to get shared taxis to York, a very interesting town within walking distance from the beach.
York Beach includes two swaths of white sand, divided by a rocky headland, with a small forest-covered island a few meters off the shore. The beach is divided from River No.2 by the aptly-named Whale Bay, where bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales can be seen between August and December. This is also one of the few places in West Africa where whales can be seen from the shore, even though going on a whale watching tour will offer you greater chances to see wildlife. Nearby you’ll find York, a Krio village with historic architecture.
York is not as popular as other nearby beaches, and it’s worth visiting during the weekend, when the best-known beaches are packed to capacity. The two bays offer good swimming conditions, and it’s possible to go snorkeling near the rocks, even though you should pack your own snorkeling gear since there’s no place for renting it in the area. August-December is prime whale watching season in York, and whale watching tours depart the beach daily. These are hard to book ahead as they are led by locals on their own painted boats – ask your accommodation or a local agent to arrange one for you if you’re interested. Another interesting activity is visiting York, a Krio town settled by formerly enslaved people who returned to Africa after gaining their freedom. Their descendants are York’s current inhabitants, still living in colorful clapboard houses, some of which are over a hundred years old.
There are two guesthouses in York – York Guesthouse and Fabulous Resort York Village. Both have a swimming pool, restaurants serving Sierra Leonean food, and accommodation in bungalows. York Guesthouse is a better choice for those looking for a lively atmosphere, whereas Fabulous Resort is a bit more secluded.