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Our State Geography in a Snap: The Coastal Plain Region

Reprinted with permission from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website.

See also:
Extended entry on the Coastal Plain (from NC Atlas Revisited)
Extended entry on the Coastal Plain (from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina)

Related Entries: Coastal Life; Settlement of the Coastal Plain; Roanoke Island: The Lost Colony; Mountains; Piedmont, Regional Vegetation

North Carolina's Coastal Plain is low, flat land along the Atlantic Ocean. It is often divided into two parts - the Outer Coastal Plain and the Inner Coastal Plain.

The Outer Coastal Plain is made up of the Outer Banks and the Tidewater region. The Outer Banks are a string of barrier islands separated from the mainland by sounds or inlets. The largest islands in the Outer Banks are Bodie, Hatteras, Ocracoke, Portsmouth, and the Core Banks. Three capes are part of the Outer Banks: Cape Hatteras, Cape Lookout, and Cape Fear. Near these capes are dangerous shoals, or underwater sandbars which are hazards to ships. Cape Hatteras is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic because shifting sand has caused many ships to run aground. The Outer Banks stretch more than 175 miles along the coast.

North Carolina Coastal Plain Counties

The Tidewater is the area along the coast close to sea level. The mouths of the major streams and rivers empty into sounds or the ocean. There are seven sounds in the Tidewater region: Pamlico, Albemarle, Currituck, Croatan, Roanoke, Core, and Bogue Sounds. This region has many low-lying areas called wetlands, where water covers the land. The Great Dismal Swamp, a series of swamps scattered from Virginia, to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, is North Carolina's largest wetland area. It covers about 750 square miles, making it one of the largest swamps in the United Swamps. The Tidewater is the only place in the world where the Venus Flytrap plant grows naturally.

The Inner Coastal Plain, a higher, drier area, begins west of the Tidewater. The rich, sandy soil here is some of the state's best farmland. In the southwestern corner of the Inner Coastal Plain are the Sandhills, a subregion of rolling, sandy hills. This area has the highest elevation on the Coastal Plain, ranging from about 900 to 1,000 feet above sea level. Longleaf pines are native to this area.




"Social Studies:: Elementary Resouces:: Student Sampler:: Geography," North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Website. (accessed March 27, 2012).

Video Credit:

"The Outer Banks of North Carolina," video courtesy of OuterbanksNC, uploaded on July 21, 2011, (access March 27, 2012).

Origin - location: 



great vidio


so what is the absolute location of the coastal plain region? does it have an absolute location?


Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for asking this question!

The regional boundaries of the state have been determined by geologic surveys of landforms, rock and soil composition.  So, the determination of the regions can be tied specifically to locations throughout the state, and in some cases can be readily observed by viewers.

Here is a link to the NCpedia article on the N.C. Geological Survey -- you can see a map that very specifically depicts the geologic changes across the state.

I hope this helps!

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


What is the main income of the coastal plains in Texas?


Hi Kayla,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and taking time to ask your question.

Unfortunately, we do not have information about Texas.

Here is a resource from Texas State Government that has links to data about Texas --  You may also want to visit your public library and consult a reference librarian for help with this question.

Good luck!

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


What is the climate like in general for the Coastal Plains, in NC.


thamk you sooo very much you helped me with everything i needed your awesome


I'd like to know the size of the coastal plain in square miles


Hi Sandra,

That's a great question!

The total land area of North Carolina (as measured in 2010) was 48,617.91 and the Coastal Plain makes up approximately 45% of the state's land area.  So -- that would be about 21,878 square miles.

I hope this helps!  Please let us know if we can help with any other N.C. information.  And here is an additional entry in NCpedia on the Coastal Plain that you might find helpful --

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library




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