What is the absolute best vector GIS coastline product available globally? I know of a great product for Africa (page 13 of this PDF http://rmgsc.cr.usgs.gov/ecosystems/docs/Africa_Ecosystems_Booklet_final.pdf). This is just what is needed but for the countries listed below. Does a global product of this detail exist? If not global feel free to send me links for continents or countries. I particularly need the coastlines of Asia (tropical countries) and Latin America. Feel free to give me continental links or even country links to the best vector digital GIS coastlines. High-detail and high-resolution matters (1:50,000 or better).

Countries required are:

  • Brazil
  • Ecuador
  • Mexico
  • India
  • Bangladesh
  • China
  • Thailand
  • Malaysia
  • Vietnam
  • Philippines
  • Indonesia
  • Myanmar


  • 5
    Can you define "best"? What is the measure - most recent, most accurate (high water, "average", or some other measure) politically accepted, or "free"?
    – BradHards
    Nov 3, 2013 at 23:57
  • Sorry for the confusion. By best, I meant highest resolution. Obviously free/cheap would be ideal but I know this can't always be the case.
    – Lovette
    Nov 4, 2013 at 14:49

4 Answers 4


The coastline in the referenced resource ("A New Map of Standardized Terrestrial Ecosystems of Africa") was created from an analysis of 30m Landsat imagery, subsequently generalized to 90m (see page 6).

I am not aware of a global database of coastlines derived from Landsat, but check out GSHHG. Their shoreline data comes from the World Vector Shoreline database, originally produced at 1:250,000.

GSHHG A Global Self-consistent, Hierarchical, High-resolution Geography Database http://www.soest.hawaii.edu/pwessel/gshhg/

  • The GSHHG looks to be the best one offered so far, but I was hoping to get a bit higher resolution. Thanks for the help.
    – Lovette
    Nov 5, 2013 at 14:15
  • The original source for GSHHG shorelines offers a higher resolution version called WVS Plus (not free): "The WVS Plus data sets can be ordered on CD through the National Aeronautical Charting Office for a cost of $196.25... Accuracy: WVS Plus specifications for data layers at 1:250000 scale require that 90% of shoreline features be within 500-meter circular error of their true geographic location." source: shoreline.noaa.gov/data/datasheets/wvs.html
    – toms
    Nov 5, 2013 at 15:42

Basing my definition of 'best' as 'free', what about Natural Earth?


Their most detailed files are 1:10,000,000 which may not meet your needs but worth a look.

  • 1
    Their file naming such as 10m_physical.zip might be misleading though if one assumes 10m stays for resolution in meters while in fact it stays for 1:10m scale. Apr 12, 2021 at 6:19

I highly recommend the vector data, GSHHG from NOAA & NOSS - Having used this on several projects at many scales from 1:25000 to 1:5000000 it has very little error and is surprisingly accurate.


Try some of the "US Department of State Humanitarian Information Unit" datasets from https://hiu.state.gov/data/data.aspx .

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