The five Southern colonies that Britain ruled were Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. In addition, Spain had the colony of Florida, and France established Louisiana, which included contemporary Alabama and Mississippi as well as the Gulf Coast portion of Georgia; Spain also ruled Louisiana for part of its colonial history, and the Florida-Georgia border zone fluctuated between British and Spanish control.
Britain's five colonies all had an Atlantic seacoast and related ports. Their territory included flat, coastal lands (tidewater); relatively flat, with rolling, low hills, often called piedmont; and mountains. The Appalachian ridge has different names in different colonies, including Shenandoah and Blue Ridge. Lowland marshy areas, including the Great Dismal Swamp, provided abundant wildlife for hunting and fishing, but foreign settlers were susceptible to diseases such as malaria.
The lands were generally fertile and proved highly suitable for farming both native and imported crops. Tobacco became an especially significant export crop that was grown on plantations, often by enslaved African laborers. Farther south, cotton and the indigo used to dye it were successful crops.
The maritime setting was especially important in and alongside the Chesapeake Bay, with fish and crabs among the primary resources.
Hunting and, later, mining were important livelihoods in the mountains as the foreigners made inroads into the Native-controlled territories.
Both the mountains and the swamps became important regions of refuge for people who escaped slavery, forming maroon communities on their own or together with Native peoples.