East Coast of the United States

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"Eastern Seaboard" redirects here. For other uses, see Eastern seaboard (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Eastern United States.
Major cities on the Eastern Seaboard

The East Coast of the United States runs along the Atlantic Ocean. The states which have shoreline on the East Coast are, from north to south, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Toponymy and composition[edit]

The name of the United States' East Coast derives from the idea of the United States as having two distinct coastlines, one at its west and one at its east. Other terms to refer to this area by cardinal direction include the term "Eastern Seaboard" and simply East Coast. The region is also commonly referred to as the "Atlantic Coast" or "Atlantic Seaboard" due to the coastline being against the Atlantic Ocean.[citation needed]

The fourteen states which have shoreline on the eastern seaboard of the United States are, from north to south, the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.[1] Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, and Vermont have no Atlantic coastlines, but they are grouped with the Eastern Seaboard states, due to their location in the Northeastern United States and New England respectively.[by whom?][2]

Colonial history[edit]

Twelve of the original Thirteen Colonies of the United Kingdom in North America that later become the original states of the United States, each founded between 1607 (Virginia) and 1733 (Georgia), lay along the East Coast.[a] Two additional U.S. states on the East Coast were not among the original Thirteen Colonies: Maine (settled by the French, but later became part of British colony of Massachusetts in 1677)[3] and Florida (originally settled by the French; which traded hands between the British and Spanish until 1821).[4] The Middle Colonies (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware) had been owned by the Dutch as New Netherland until they were captured by the British in the mid-to-late 17th century.[citation needed]

Climate and physical geography[edit]

There are three basic climate regions on the East Coast from north to south:

The region from northern Maine south to about central Connecticut has a continential climate, with warm summers and long cold and snowy winters. The region from southern Connecticut south to central North Carolina has a temperate climate with hot summers and cool winters with a mix of rain and snow. The region from southern North Carolina south to central Florida has a subtropical climate, with long hot summers and mild winters. The far southern portion of the East Coast from south -central Florida (Stuart) south through the Florida Keys as a tropical climate, which is normally frost free and is warm to hot all year.

Average monthly precipitation ranges from a slight winter maximum from Massachusetts northward, to a slight summer maximum from Long Island south to Virginia, to a more pronounced summer maximum from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina southward to Savannah, Georgia. Florida has a sharper summer wet winter dry pattern.

Although landfalls are rare, the Eastern seaboard is susceptible to hurricanes in the Atlantic hurricane season, officially running from June 1 to November 30, although hurricanes can occur before or after these dates.[5] Hurricanes Hazel, Hugo, Bob, Isabel, Irene, and most recently Sandy are some of the more significant storms to have affected the region.

The East Coast is a low-relief, passive margin coast.[6] It has been shaped by the Pleistocene glaciation in the far northern areas from NYC northward, with offshore islands such as Nantucket, Block Island, Fishers Island, the nearly peninsular Long Island and New York City's Staten Island the result of terminal moraines, with Massachusetts' unique peninsula of Cape Cod showing the additional action of outwash plains, besides terminal moraines. The coastal plain broadens southwards, separated from the Piedmont districts by the Atlantic Seaboard fall line of the East Coast rivers, often marking the head of navigation, prominent sites of cities. The southern coastal areas from North Carolina south to Florida are often made up of barrier islands that front the coastal areas. Many of the larger capes along the lower East Coast are barrier islands like the Outer Banks of North Carolina and Cape Canaveral,Florida. The Florida Keys are made up of limestone coral and provide the only coral reefs on the US mainland.


In 2010, the population of the states which have shoreline on the East Coast was estimated at 112,642,503 (36% of the country's total population).[5]


The primary Interstate Highway along the East Coast is Interstate 95.[6] I-95 (completed in the late 1970s) replaced the historic U.S. Route 1 (Atlantic Highway),[7][8] which was the original federal highway that traversed all east coast states (except Delaware).[9][10] By water, the east coast is connected from Norfolk, Virginia to Miami, Florida by the Intracoastal Waterway, also known as the East Coast Canal, which was completed in 1912.[11][12] Amtrak's Downeaster and Northeast Regional offer the main passenger rail service on the Seaboard. The Acela Express offers the only high-speed rail passenger service in the Americas. Between New York and Boston the Acela Express has up to a 54% share of the combined train and air passenger market.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Those colonies were New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Pennsylvania is the 13th colony, excluded here because it accesses the coast only via the Delaware River.