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. http://www.ncpublicschools.org/curriculum/socialstudies/elementary/studentsampler/20geography#location (accessed March 27, 2012).

Video Credit:

"The Outer Banks of North Carolina," video courtesy of OuterbanksNC, uploaded on July 21, 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cr0Z6RR4KLI (access March 27, 2012).

Origin - location: 



After Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Tropical Depression Florence, mass media should be informing the general public, with maps, including topographic AND soil maps, about the relationships between the flooding and the physiographic regions and topography. Mitigation to prevent this scale of disaster - and water contamination - in the future also must be informed by this knowledge. I have a B.A. in Geography, so this isn't new to me. Most residents in the affected area don't seem to have gotten any schooling in the relevant subjects. Can you reach out to mass media to get these mapped facts better reported? E.g. to PBS, part of allegedly "educational television"?


why is the coastal plained named like that


Because its on the coast and is flat like a plain -_-


Hi, Sandra. 

The term "plains" refers to flat areas. The Coastal Plain of NC is flat, but begins to raise as you move inland.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


the magority of the coastal plains is flat hense the name but you are right it does start to get hilly inward and that is because you are aproching another region but we cat name every characteristic of the area or else the name would be far to long like the piedmont area it is flat in some places and almost like the moutains in another so we go with what the magority of the area is.


what are the main rivers and major cities of this region


Hi, Crystal.

You will find that information in this and related articles on NCpedia. See the links in the article for additional information.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


This helped me a lot on my project.


So what was their food source ? who were the people that made the outer bank.


When were the coastal plains formed?

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