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.

The East Coast of the United States is the section of land that runs along the Atlantic Ocean. The states that 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 term East Coast derives from the idea that the contiguous 48 states are defined by two major coastlines, one at the western edge and one on the eastern edge. Other terms for referring to this area include "Eastern Seaboard", "Atlantic Coast", and "Atlantic Seaboard" because the coastline lies along the Atlantic Ocean.[citation needed]

The fourteen states that have a shoreline on the East Coast 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]

Although Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, Vermont, and West Virginia have no Atlantic Ocean coastline, they are sometimes grouped with the Eastern Seaboard states because of their location in the Northeastern United States, New England, and Dixie respectively.[by whom?][2]

Colonial history[edit]

Twelve of the original thirteen colonies of Great Britain in North America lay along the East Coast.[a]

Two additional U.S. states on the East Coast were not among the original thirteen colonies: Maine (became part of the English colony of Massachusetts in 1677)[3] and Florida (part of New Spain until 1821, though held by the British for 20 years after the French and Indian War).[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 English in the mid-to-late 17th century.[citation needed]

Climate and physical geography[edit]

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

The region from northern Maine south to about central Connecticut has a continental climate, with warm summers and long, cold and snowy winters. The region from southern Connecticut south to about the Virginia Eastern Shore has a temperate climate with hot summers and cool winters with a mix of rain and snow. The region from southeastern Virginia (including the greater Norfolk/Virginia Beach area) south to central Florida has a humid subtropical climate, with long hot summers and mild winters.The far southern portion of the East Coast from southeast Florida (Palm Beach area) south through the Florida Keys has a tropical climate, which is normally frost free and is warm to hot all year.

Average monthly precipitation ranges from a slight late fall (November) maximum from Massachusetts northward (as at Portland, Maine), to a slight summer maximum from Long Island south to Virginia (as at Wilmington, DE and Norfolk, VA), to a more pronounced summer maximum from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina southward to Savannah, Georgia. Florida has a sharper wet-summer/dry-winter pattern, with 50 to 60 percent of precipitation falling between June and September in an average year.

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.


  1. ^ General Reference Map, National Atlas of the United States, 2003.
  2. ^ "NOAA Chart Locator". National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved Feb 21, 2013. 
  3. ^ 1500-1667: Contact & Conflict, Maine History Online, Maine Historical Society
  4. ^ A Brief History of Florida: From the Stone Age to the Space Age, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State
  5. ^ 2010 Census: Resident Population Data Archived October 19, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Let's Go Roadtripping USA: The Student Travel Guide, page 31, Harvard Student Agencies
  7. ^ U.S. 1: Fort Kent, Maine to Key West, Florida, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, updated April 7, 2011
  8. ^ http://www.rogerssportcentermaine.com/custompage.asp?pg=history[unreliable source?]
  9. ^ http://www.northerndoorinn.com/usrt1.html[unreliable source?]
  10. ^ [1] Archived February 8, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Moon Florida Gulf Coast, page 373, Laura Reiley
  12. ^ Ponte Vedra Beach: A History, page 89, Maurice J. Robinson
  13. ^ Nixon, Ron (August 15, 2012). "Air Travel's Hassles drive riders to AMTRAKs Acela". The New York Times.  for Acela express passenger numbers only
  14. ^ "The Information: Most popular airline routes". Financial Times. January 17, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2010.