As per the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, a coastline is defined as “the particular shape of the coast, especially as seen from above, from the sea, or on a map”. The measure of a country’s coastline varies with the scale at which it is measured. Smaller scale maps yield a lower value of coastline measurement than larger scale maps. When talking of "scale", this is referring to point-to-point connections made along a given country's coastline, which are then summed to give the total coastline length. The aforementioned discrepancies are examples of fractal behavior, since the larger the scale of a map is, the more frequent will be the indentations visible on a coastline, and therefore the greater will be the measured length of the coastline. Hence, when countries are compared based on their coastline measurements, all data are taken from measurements made on maps of identical scale. The countries listed below have the longest total coastlines in the world, and these hold great cultural, military, and economic importance for each of them.
10. Antarctica (11,165 miles)
Antarctica, the frozen continent, has a coastline extending for 11,165 miles. The continent is based around the South Pole of the planet, and is surrounded on all sides by oceans. The southern Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, together referred to as the Southern Ocean, encompass the continent from all sides. The entire coastline of Antarctica is characterized by the presence of ice formations of varying shapes and sizes. Large penguin colonies of Emperor, Chinstrap, Gentoo, and Adélie penguins may be spotted along the coastline of Antarctica. Besides penguins, fur seals, blue whales, and orcas can often be sighted in the waters along the coast of the continent as well.
9. United States (12,380 miles)
The United States of America is one of the largest countries of the world, and is composed of 50 states, fiver major territories, and several minor territories. The country has a total coastline of around 12,380 miles, and 23 states of the country have a coastline to call their own. The country shares its coastline with the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north of Alaska, and the Gulf of Mexico towards the southwest. Alaska has the longest coastline (6,640 miles) among the U.S. states, and shares its borders with the Pacific Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. Florida and California have the second (1,350 miles) and third (840 miles) longest coastlines of all the coastal states in the country, respectively.
8. Norway (15,626 miles)
The Kingdom of Norway, mostly located in the western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula and inclusive of the Jan Mayen island and the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, has a total coastline of 15,626 miles. The mainland of the country faces the North Atlantic Ocean towards the east, and the Barents Sea towards the north.The coastline of Norway is highly irregular, and ruggedly indented with numerous fjords and islands all along its coast. A large section of the Norwegian population lives along the coast. The capital of the country, Oslo, is also based towards the top of the Oslo Fjord. The Norwegian coastline is also a popular tourist destination, and one attracting visitors from all over the world to watch the majestic landscape along the coastline, and also catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights along the northern coasts of the country.
7. Australia (16,007 miles)
Australia, an island nation in Oceania, has a coastline that totals 16,007 miles long. The country shares its coastline with the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Southern Oceans. A major section of the Australian population is based along the coastlines of the country. The coastal landscape here is quite varied, inclusive of picturesque sandy beaches, mangrove swamps, and rocky cliffs across different sections of the country’s coast. There are about 10,685 beaches in Australia, as well as numerous caves, coves, and unique land formations along the shores of the country, many of which serve as popular tourist spots. Today, the leisure industry and fishing industry each employ a large number of Australians living along the country’s coastlines. The Great Barrier Reef, located off the eastern coast of Australia, is the world’s largest coral reef system, and is regarded as one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.
6. Japan (18,486 miles)
Japan, a heavily populated and technologically advanced island nation off the coast of East Asia, lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, between the Sea of Okhotsk in the north and East China Sea in the south. The country has a 18,486 mile-long coastline forming the boundaries of its 6,852 islands. Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu are the largest, and most economically significant, islands of the nation. The northern and western coasts of Honshu, and the coastline of Hokkaido, are quite straight in the nature of their respective shapes. Meanwhile, ages of tides and storms create significant irregularities in the coastline of Kyushu and eastern Honshu. Most of the major urban centers of Japan are built along the country’s coastline, which also house some of the largest international ports. Fishing, aquaculture, and whaling are some of the major occupations supporting the livelihoods of the populations based along Japan’s coastlines.
5. Philippines (22,549 miles)
An island country located in the western Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southeast Asia, the Philippines, with its 7,641 islands, has a coastline of 22,549 miles. The coastline of this country is highly irregular, being indented with countless islets, bays, and gulfs. The coastal areas of the country are the most densely inhabited, and roughly 60% of the population of the country, and most of its large cities, are found based along the coastlines of the country. A large number of Filipinos depend on coastal fisheries for their livelihoods, and about 40-60% of the total fish catch of the country is contributed by the coastal fishing activities. The arresting beauty of the shores of the Philippines also draws thousands of tourists to this country, economically benefiting the nation in turn.
4. Russia (23,396 miles)
Russia, a sovereign state in northern Eurasia, has an extensive coastline that is 23,396 miles long. The coastline of Russia is shared with the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and Sea of Azov to the southwest. A large proportion of the population of the country is settled along the coastline, with a number of major Russian cities, including St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Yalta, Magadan, Kaliningrad, Baltiysk, and others, located along the shores of the country.
3. Greenland (27,394 miles)
Greenland, an autonomous country located between the Arctic and the Atlantic Oceans, has one of the largest coastlines in the world with a total length of 27,394 miles. The coastline of Greenland proffers a fascinating view of spectacular landscapes characterized by fjords, glaciers, icebergs, and cliffs. A large number of wild species can be sighted in the pristine coastal habitats of the country, both in the water and on land. Terrestrial species, such as the Arctic foxes, hares, wolves, lemmings, ermines, and, of course, the iconic Arctic polar bears, can all be observed living in their pristine natural habitats along the coasts of Greenland. The water surrounding the coastline also abounds with aquatic species, including the likes of Beluga whales, Blue whales, Pilot whales, and other rare and elusive marine species.
2. Indonesia (33,999 miles)
Though not in the top ten countries in terms of total land area, the large number of islands in Indonesia qualify it to rank as the second among the countries in the world with the longest coastlines. The coastline of the country is approximately 33,999 miles long, and the areas along the Indonesian coasts exhibit varying patterns of landscapes, influenced by natural factors and human intervention alike. Mangrove forests grow extensively along the coasts of Kalimantan, Papua, and northeastern Sumatra. Prawn cultivation, meanwhile, is common along the coasts of northern Java and southwestern Sulawesi. The most picturesque coastal areas of Indonesia, which are also the country’s most popular tourist destinations, occur along the smaller islands in eastern Indonesia, the southern portions of Java island, and the island of Sumatra.
1. Canada (125,567 miles)
Canada, the second largest country in the world by total area, is comprised by ten provinces and three territories. Canada also has the longest total coastline among all of the countries of the world. The country’s 125,567 mile-long coastline fronts on the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Arctic Ocean to the north. Most of the Canadian provinces and territories, with the exception of Alberta and Saskatchewan, have their own respective coastlines. The coastline of the country exhibits varied landscapes across different parts of the country, and most shoreline types are present around the Canadian coastlines, with the exception of such tropical and subtropical ecosystems as mangrove swamps and coral reefs.