VISITOR numbers at one of the region's fast-growing attractions have jumped by more than a half in the past two years.

Appropriately for the Captain Cook Memorial Museum at Whitby, North Yorkshire, almost two-thirds of its overseas visitors come from Australia and New Zealand.

Captain James Cook explored the east coast of Australia and circumnavigated New Zealand in the latter half of the 18th Century. The museum is in the harbourside house where he lodged during his three-year seafarer's apprenticeship.

The museum recorded 1,178 foreign visitors last year, 524 of them from Australia and 238 from New Zealand, far outstripping the numbers from the US, at 133, and continental Europe, 177.

Spokesman Charles Forgan said: "We believe, with a little ingenuity, the numbers of Australians and New Zealanders visiting Whitby could be tripled or quadrupled."

Visitor numbers as a whole have grown from 14,766 in 2000 to 22,608 in 2002.