The family from Birmingham who were on holiday, including two boys aged 9 and 11 and their pet spaniel, had been walking beneath the 600-ft-high Boulby cliffs when they realised they were cut off and rang 999.
Staithes and Runswick RNLI lifeboat Sheila and Dennis Tongue III was on the scene within 10 minutes of the alarm being raised and stood off at sea while a crew member swam ashore to ensure the family stayed safe above the rising tide on a ledge at a spot known as New Fall.
Coastguard teams from Staithes, Whitby and Redcar gathered at the nearest clifftop at Boulby cottages and prepared to evacuate the family with 200 metre ropes but it was decided it was best to rescue them by the lifeboat.
In what was described as an "exemplary operation in tricky conditions", helmsman Drew Baxter manoeuvred the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat between the rocks as close to the shore as possible. Two more crewmen swam separately ashore with dry suits and lifebelts, and attaching each member of the family to a safety line, escorted them in turn through the rocks and choppy sea back to the lifeboat, finally rescuing the pet spaniel.
Just over an hour after the alarm was raised, the family was safely returned to Staithes and after a check-up at the RNLI boathouse they were able to return to their holiday cottage.
A spokesman for Staithes RNLI said: "The rocks along the shoreline at this point under Boulby are as big as cars and even a low swell can create big waves to swim through. But this sort of rescue is what we train for and it was an exemplary operation in tricky conditions.
"We’re delighted that everyone returned safe and sound but please remember to check the tide tables before setting off to walk under these cliffs as they get cut off by the tide both sides of Staithes. Tell someone where you’re going - and take a mobile phone. This could have been been very nasty if they hadn’t been able to phone the Coastguard on 999."