It grew up in the 19th century as a seaside resort and colliery town.
The Roman fort of Arbeia has been extensively excavated, and there is now a Roman museum.
William Wouldhave, inventor of the lifeboat in 1789, was born at South Shields, and the world`s first lifeboat service began here in 1790.
Also born in South Shields were actress Flora Robson; film director Ridley Scott; and saxophone player Kathy Stobart.
Wilson, Keppel and Betty, originators of the famous Sand Dance, came from South Shields.
There is a ferry to North Shields.