Abstract Investigations were conducted on bathymetry, reef biota and sediments on the Hirota Reef, Tane-ga-shima, North Ryukyus, near the northern limit for coral-reef formation. A bathymetric profile from shore to the reef edge was depicted along an approximately 420-m transect on the Hirota Coast of this island. A total of 20 quadrats (1 m × 1 m) were analyzed along the profile at 10- or 20-m intervals to clarify distribution of macrobenthos inhabiting the reef. The Hirota Reef is divided into four geomorphologic zones according to their depth, gradient, surface roughness, substrate and characteristic macrobenthos. They are, from shore to offshore, shallow lagoon, seaward reef flat, reef edge and reef slope. The shallow lagoon comprises a shoreward depression (∼160 m wide on the transect) with a sand/gravel bottom that inclines gently toward offshore, and a seaward patch zone (∼70 m wide). The patches (<2 m high) are covered with fleshy algae, coralline algae and hermatypic corals. The seaward reef flat (∼190 m wide) is a flat plane that is constructed by biogenic carbonates and is covered with turf algae, with hermatypic corals scattered. Although the seaward reef flat of the Hirota Reef cannot be differentiated into different geomorphologic zones, similar seaward reef flat areas in the Central and South Ryukyus can be clearly subdivided into inner reef flat, reef crest and outer reef flat. This difference may be attributed to a lower reef growth rate and/or the later reef formation of the Hirota Reef in Holocene time than the southern examples. The coral fauna on the Hirota Reef is delineated by low diversity and characterized by taxa typical of high-latitude, non-reefal communities. The algal flora consists of tropical to subtropical species associated with warm-temperate species. These faunal and floral characteristics may be related largely to lower water temperature in Tane-ga-shima than those in typical coral-reef regions.