Difference Between Gulf and Strait

Main Difference – Gulf vs Strait

Gulf and Strait are two important geographical features on earth’s surface. Both these features are connected to the water. A gulf is a deep inlet of the sea, surrounded by land, with a narrow mouth whereas a strait is a narrow waterway that connects tow large water bodies. This is the main difference between gulf and strait.

What is a Gulf

A gulf is a deep inlet of the sea with a narrow mouth, which is almost surrounded by land. Gulf can be defined as a portion of the sea that penetrates the land. Gulfs over the world can vary extensively in depth, size, and shape. Gulf is sometimes also known as a large bay. However, a bay is always larger and deeply indented than a gulf. Bays, as well as gulfs, make excellent trading centers and harbors due to their shape.

Like many other geographical features on Earth, gulfs are also formed due to the movements of the tectonic plates. Gulfs can sometimes be connected to the ocean by straits. The Gulf of Mexico (largest gulf in the world), Gulf of California, Persian Gulf, and the Gulf of Aden are some famous of gulfs.

Main Difference - Gulf vs Strait

The Gulf of Mexico

What is a Strait

A strait is a naturally formed narrow waterway that connects two large bodies of water. A strait can be formed by tectonic shifts or land that has been subsided or been eroded.

The Strait of Gibraltar, the link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean was formed by tectonic shift. The Bosporus, which connects the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea, is believed to be formed by land that has subsided or eroded.

If a strait is formed by human activities, it is called a canal. The Suez Canal, which links the Meditation Sea and the Red Sea, enables easy passage between Europe and Asia, is such a man-made strait.

Straits have always played an important role in trade and travel. Owning and controlling a strait meant controlling the sea and the shipping routes of the entire region. This is true to some extent even in contemporary trade. For instance, Middle Eastern countries ship great quantities of their petroleum through the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. This strait is controlled by Oman, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates and all three countries have military posts in this region.

Difference Between Gulf and Strait

Strait of Messina

Difference Between Gulf and Strait


Gulf is a portion of the sea that penetrates the land.

Strait is a narrow passage of water that connects two large bodies of water.


Gulf connects the land and the sea.

Strait connects two larger bodies of water.


Gulf  is always a natural formation.

Strait can be manmade, and such a structure is known as a canal.


Gulf serves as an excellent location for harbors.

Straits cannot act as harbors.Difference Between Gulf and Strait - infographic

Image Courtesy:

“Fixed gulf map” by NOAA – Source (High-Res: 3000×2451). (Public Domain) via Commons

“MessinaStrait”. (Public Domain) via Commons

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