GCSE Geography: Coasts - Spits and Tombolos

23rd August 2017

GCSE Geography Revision - Made Easy!

All you need to know about Spits and Tombolos on the Coast!


When the sea transports material, such as sand, silt and rocks, it is eventually deposited somewhere other than where it was picked up along the coastline. This process is called longshore drift. Longshore drift is caused by prevailing winds making the swash and backwashes of waves move in a zig-zag formation, edging beach material along a coastline.


Longshore drift can then lead to the deposition of material in a way that juts out from a headland or coastline, along a rive mouth or potentially along a bay. These depositional landforms are attactched to the mainland at one end, and stretch out a long way either unattactched, or attached to an island. These landforms are called spits and tombolos.


  • Spits - These landforms are attached to the mainland at one end, but not at the other. They stretch out to sea in a long narrow shape, usually resembling a hook. They are also normally found jutting out across a river mouth or a bay. Spits protect the land opposite to the side of the waves, and this allows material to build up on the other side. Silt can be deposited, forming salt marshes on the protected side of the spit. Salt marshes are areas of land that can host ecosystems, formed of silt, and are regualrly submurged by salt water.


  • Tombolos - A tombolo is very similar to a spit in the sense that the same depositional landform remains that would usually created a spit attached at one end. However, a tombolo is connected to the mainland at one end, but is also connected to an island at the other end, forming an almost bridge-like shape.


Examples and Case Studies you can research to use in your exam:


  • Hengistbury Head, UK - Spit
  • Spurn Point, UK - Spit
  • Farewell Spit, New Zealand - Spit
  • Arabat Spit, Sea of Azov - Spit


  • Chesil Beach, UK - Tombolo
  • St. Ninian's, UK - Tombolo


Make sure to check out our music video on 'Coasts: Spits and Tombolos', remember the lyrics, and then take a try at our test!


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