Printer-friendly page

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: 



Dear Carlie,

In the NCpedia article at, the five largest freshwater lakes in NC are listed as follows:

Lake Mattamuskeet  (30,000 acres),

Scuppernong Lake (16,600 acres)

Lake Waccamaw  (8,938 acres)

Alligator Lake (6,000 acres) 

Pungo Lake (2,700 acres).

Thank you.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library


Great website nc peidia


Tell me about nc coastal plains


Hi Ted,

What type of information are you looking for?  NCpedia has more resources on the state's geography, geology, climate and regions.  Visit this page:

I hope this helps!  Please reply back if you need additional assistance.

Kelly Agan


Hello. This is the first time i have been to this resource. This is a good source for our state.
I do have a question relating to the geologic formations in the sandhills and piedmont areas and how the ground water tables are affected. A newspaper had a article once about an area down east nc on this subject. It said there is an area where the subterranean formations where verticle and no water is obtainable by drilling. Where is this area? Thanks for your help on finding resources on this. A preference is for mobile friendy data. Thank you.
W. R. Brown


Hello Mr. Brown,

Thank you for using NCpedia and taking the time to leave your question. This sounds very interesting!

I am forwarding your question to reference services at the Government & Heritage Library. A librarian will contact you soon, at the email address you provided, to assist with your research.

Good luck!

Laurie Reeves, Government & Heritage Library


Is their anyway I can get more information on the economy of the Inner Coastal Plain?


Dear Macy,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing your question. I am connecting you via email with Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library.  A librarian will contact you shortly to help you locate more information.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan


Are the Sandhills in the inner costal plain a natural resource?


Hi Carsyn,

The Sandhills are considered to be a separate geologic area that sits between the Piedemont and the coastal plains region.  They are considered a region composed of very ancient sand dunes that divide the two surrounding regions.

I hope this helps! Please feel free to post back if you have additional questions.

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

Add a comment

PLEASE NOTE: NCpedia provides the comments feature as a way for viewers to engage with the resources. Comments are not published until reviewed by NCpedia editors at the State Library of NC, and the editors reserve the right to not publish any comment submitted that is considered inappropriate for this resource. NCpedia will not publish personal contact information in comments, questions, or responses. If you would like a reply by email, note that some email servers, such as public school accounts, are blocked from accepting messages from outside email servers or domains. If you prefer not to leave an email address, check back at your NCpedia comment for a reply. Please allow one business day for replies from NCpedia. Complete guidelines are available at