The valley measures approximately 150 km in length from Digby and the Annapolis Basin in the west to Wolfville and the Minas Basin in the east, spanning the counties of Digby, Annapolis and Kings.
The steep face of basaltic North Mountain shelters the valley from the adjacent Bay of Fundy and rises to almost 1000 feet in elevation in some parts. The granitic South Mountain also rises to similar elevation and shelters the valley from the climate of the Atlantic Ocean approximately 100 kilometres further south on the province's South Shore.
The shelter provided by these two mountainous ridges has produced a "micro climate" which provides relatively mild temperatures for the region and, coupled with the fertile glacial sedimentary soils on the valley floor, the region is conducive to growing vegetable and fruit crops. Particularly famous for its apple crop, the valley hosts in excess of 1,000 farms of various types, the majority being relatively small family-owned operations.
Within the valley itself are two "major" rivers, the Annapolis River which flows west from the Caribou Bog in the central part of the valley into the Annapolis Basin, and the Cornwallis River which flows east from Caribou Bog into the Minas Basin. The North Mountain ridge forms the north side of the Annapolis Valley.
Long settled by the Mi'kmaq Nation, the valley experienced French settlement at the Habitation at Port-Royal, near modern day Annapolis Royal in the western part of the valley, beginning in 1605 and continuing through to the British-ordered expulsion of Acadians in 1755 and at Grand Pré in the eastern part of the valley. New England Planters moved in to occupy the abandoned Acadian farming areas and the region also saw subsequent settlement by Loyalist refugees of the American Revolutionary War, as well as foreign Protestants.
Today, the valley is still largely dominated by agriculture but also has a growing diversity in its economies, partly aided by the importance of post-secondary education centres provided by Acadia University in Wolfville, and the Nova Scotia Community College campuses located in Kentville, Middleton, Lawrencetown, and Digby.
Michelin has an important truck tire manufacturing plant in Waterville and the Department of National Defence has its largest air force base in Atlantic Canada located at CFB Greenwood.
Tourism is also an important industry and the Annapolis Valley is known for its scenic farmland.
The valley is home to the annual Apple Blossom Festival, held in late spring.