In the 19th century the village became a spa town, when many hotels and guest houses were built. Much of the land surrounding the village is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster and the tenants have a common right which has extended for hundreds of years to graze their black faced sheep on the village green and the surrounding moorland.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has a station in the village running from Grosmont to Pickering. This heritage railway is the second longest preserved line in Britain and is thought to carry over 250,000 passengers a year. Goathland has numerous footpaths and is popular with walkers. The village has a several cafes and pubs including North Yorkshire's smallest pub in the nearby hamlet of Beck Hole.
Many visitors are attracted to the village as it was used as the fictional village of Aidensfield in the TV series "Heartbeat". Many of the landmarks such as the garage/funeral parlour and general stores are easily recognisable.