First, What IS Hampton Roads?
The water area known as Hampton Roads is a wide channel through which the waters of the James River, Nansemond River, and Elizabeth River pass (between Old Point Comfort to the north and Sewell's Point to the south) into the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The region has extensive natural areas, including 26 miles (42 km) of Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay beaches, the Great Dismal Swamp, picturesque rivers, state parks, wildlife refuges, and botanical gardens. Inland from the bay, the region includes Lake Drummond, one of only two natural lakes found in Virginia, and miles of waterfront property along the various rivers and waterways. The region's native flora is consistent with that of the Southeast Coastal Plain and the lower Southeast Maritime Forest.
The land area which constitutes "Hampton Roads" varies depending upon perspective and purpose. Most of the land area of Hampton Roads is geographically divided into 2 smaller regions: the eastern portion of the Virginia Peninsula (the Peninsula) and South Hampton Roads (locally known as "the Southside"), which are separated by the harbor. When speaking of communities of Hampton Roads, virtually all sources (including the three discussed in the following paragraphs) include the seven major cities, two smaller ones, and three counties within those two subregions.
In addition, the Middle Peninsula counties of Gloucester and Mathews, while not part of the geographical Hampton Roads area, are included in the vast metropolitan region's population. Also, a small portion of northeastern North Carolina (Currituck County) is included in the region's statistics. Due to a peculiarity in the drawing of the Virginia-North Carolina border, Knott's Island in that county is connected to Virginia by land, but is only accessible to other parts of North Carolina across waterways via a ferry system.
Each of the following current cities, counties and towns is included by at least one of the three organizations that define "Hampton Roads"
Hampton is a Hampton Roads community.The Hampton Roads area consists of nine independent cities (which are not part of any county). Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach cover the Southside of Hampton Roads while Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg reside on the Peninsula. Franklin borders Suffolk but the Census Bureau does not consider it as a part of the metro area.
The metro area has one county in North Carolina, Currituck. The remaining counties, in Virginia, include Isle of Wight and Surry on the Southside, James City and York on the Virginia Peninsula, and Gloucester and Mathews on the Middle Peninsula. While Southampton is adjacent to Surry, Isle of Wight, and the City of Suffolk, the Census Bureau does not consider it part of the metro area.
Five incorporated towns reside in the metro area including Claremont in Surry County, Dendron in Surry County, Smithfield in Isle of Wight County, Surry, Surry County's seat, and Windsor in Isle of Wight County. (Two other incorporated towns, Boykins and Courtland are located in Southampton County, and therefore, like the county within which they are located, are not part of the federally-defined metropolitan area).
Other unincorporated towns and communities in the metropolitan area which are not within its cities include Gloucester Courthouse and Gloucester Point in Gloucester County, Isle of Wight Courthouse, Rushmere, Rescue, Carrollton, Benns Church, and Walters in Isle of Wight County, Yorktown, Grafton, Seaford, and Tabb in York County, Jamestown, Ford's Colony, Grove, Lightfoot, Toano, and Norge in James City County, Moyock, Knotts Island, and Currituck in Currituck County, North Carolina.
The Hampton Roads MSA has a population of about 1.7 million and is tied with Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC MSA as the fifth largest metropolitan area in the southeastern USA after Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA, Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA, and Orlando-Kissimmee, FL MSA.