The coastal plain (Hebrew: מישור החוף) is a flat region in Israel that runs along the Mediterranean coast. It stretches approximately from Caesarea (at the foot of the Carmel Range) in the north to the Gaza Strip in the south. It is the main economic center of country, including the Tel Aviv metropolis as well as a number of smaller cities. But the region also contains other sites of interest, including beaches, nature reserves, and archaeological sites.
|Northern Coastal Plain (aka Israeli North Coast)
the region extends along the Mediterranean Sea shoreline for 40 km, from the Carmel Range to Rosh Haniqra on the Israeli border with Lebanon, and inland across the coastal plain for 6 km until it reaches the hills of the Upper Galilee. It is a relatively isolated and tranquil region of great natural beauty, great opportunities for outdoor fun and full of historical and cultural interest.
|The Sharon Plain
the region extends along the Mediterranean Sea shoreline for 50 km, from the Carmel Range in the north to the Israeli Southern Coastal region in the south, and inland for circa 16-18 km until it reaches the West Bank. In the recent decades the urbanization of the Sharon plain region has intensified as the Gush Dan metropolitan continues to grow northward into the Sharon plain. The Sharon plain also consists of many natural beaches with sand dunes, limestone cliffs, and several streams. The region also has various archaeological sites, including Caesarea.
|Southern Coastal Plain
The Israeli South Coast (Hebrew: מישור החוף הדרומי), extends along the Mediterranean Sea shoreline for 60 km, and is bound by the Sharon plain in the north, the Shfela region in the east, and the Negev region and the Gaza Strip in the south. Most of the Gush Dan metropolitan area is located within this region of the country. Nowadays the population in the Gush Dan metropolitan area consists of about 1.8 million residents. Unlike the rest of the coastal regions of Israel, the region contains a significantly larger desert area and is the climate in this region tends to be more hot and dry.
The cities and information on the Israeli North Coast is covered in a separate article. Apart from that, from north to south, the rest of the Coastal Plain can be roughly divided into three groups of cities:
The Sharon plain
- Hadera – Mostly known by the landmark Orot Rabin Power Plant chimneys, where 19% of Israel's electricity is generated.
- Netanya – Many people from Tel Aviv come here for its beach.
- Ra'anana – A regular city in the Sharon region.
- Kfar Saba
- Herzliya – Its upscale suburb called Herzliya Pituach is home to many beachfront hotels and expensive residences - a big industrial and commercial center as well as home to many high-tech companies.
The Tel Aviv metropolitan area is often referred to as Gush Dan, because the Biblical tribe of Dan lived here.
- Tel Aviv – Main center of the country for economy and clubbing.
- Bnei Brak – The city's major focus is chareidi Jewish life.
- Petah Tikva – Less touristic and points of interest for those into early Zionist history.
- Ramat Gan – An eclectic town famous for many things totally unrelated to each other, including diamonds, football, malls, chocolates, Iraqi restaurants, a religious university, and an open-space African safari with lions.
- Holon – Has one of biggest water parks in Israel.
- Bat Yam – A working-class suburb.
- Rishon LeZion – Its amusement park is often visited by people from Tel Aviv seeking better thrills than the ones at Luna Park Tel Aviv.
- Ramla – You may stop here on your way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and visit the Tower of Ramla.
- Lod – Next to the airport.
Southern Coastal Plain
- Rehovot – An academic city and home to the Weizmann Institute of Science.
- Ashdod – Meeting point of the yellow sand dunes from the south, the green lowland from the east (including the small Lachish river), and the blue Mediterranean Sea from the west.
- Ashkelon – One of the oldest cities in Israel. Included some untouched dunes.
- Caesarea & Zarqa Bay – Extensive archaeological site north along the coast, and beautiful but not crowded beaches.
Historically, the coastal plain was an agricultural region. The northern half of the coastal plain, known as the Sharon, was known for its citrus orchards which exported the famous "Jaffa orange". The southern half, south of Jaffa, mostly consisted of sparsely populated sandy areas. Starting in the early 1900s, the coastal plain was the main destination of Jewish immigrants and refugees who came by boat. Over time this led Tel Aviv to become Israel's most economically important city, while the southern coastal plain became an intensely used agricultural area dotted with many villages, kibbutzim, and moshavim. Nowadays, the fields and orchards of the coastal plain are still present, but they have become economically insignificant compared to the commerce and industry of the Tel Aviv region.
Geographically, in much of the Sharon region, the beaches are lined with cliffs, and agricultural settlements begin immediately above these cliff. There are a number of permanent streams winding through the Sharon region. In the south, there are usually large sand dunes along the coast, with agriculture several kilometers inland. The south is drier, and all the streams are intermittent, flowing only after winter rains.
Most cities in the coastal plain are served by train lines connecting to Tel Aviv. However, the train stations are often inconveniently located on the outskirts of cities.
There are many bus lines coming from or going through major cities in the Sharon plain region (especially going through Hadera, Netanya and Herzliya) from many places outside the Sharon plain region. There are also express bus lines to various major cities in the Sharon plain region whom head out from Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Tiberias.
Highways 2, 4, and 6 cross the coastal plain region from north to south. Highway 6, the Trans-Israel Highway, is a toll road. Highways 2 and 6 are motorways.
Buses and sheruts are the options of choice. Bus stops can be found at almost every junction and intersection.
Hitch-hiking is possible, but due to the many large highways, it can be quite difficult to find an appropriate place to catch a ride – best to try the slip road that leads to the highway, otherwise at a three lane highway you might wait forever.
Besides the sites mentioned for each city, the following are worth mentioning in this region.
- 1 Atlit Detention Camp. A camp along the coast where British authorities held illegal Jewish immigrants in the 1940s, now a museum.
- 2 Nahal Taninim (Crocodilopolis). Named for the crocodiles that inhabited the nearby Kebara swamps. The remains are still visible today. It is inhabited nowadays by many different birds.
- 3 Turtle Bridge (located along Alexander river and across the train tracks north from Kfar Vitkin). You can see meter-long African softshell turtles in the water under this bridge. Any season is good to visit except winter - turtles are less active then. It is forbidden to feed them, and they can bite, so don't get too close.
- 4 Palmachim Beach. Nice beach, and a kibbutz of the same name nearby. Located nearby are the ruins of ancient Yavne's seaport, Yavne-Yam. Its archaeological findings are displayed in the nearby kibbutz's museum.
Almost all of the Sharon, as well as the cities south of Tel Aviv, have publicly accessible beaches. But as usual, don't swim without a lifeguard. The swimming season is usually between June and September, and lifeguards are only available during this season.
Eat and Drink
Mostly covered by the cities mentioned above.
- Galilee (northeast) – Gateway to northern Israel, i.e. the Jezreel Valley (for Tel Megiddo (Armageddon) National Park and Mount Gilboa), the Sea of Galilee region and the Golan Heights. Nazareth is the most famous city and a must see in the Galilee.
- Negev (southeast) – A huge and must-see desert with many amazing sites, including the Ramon Crater, the Small Crater, Ein Avdat and Ein Akev.