The area is approximately evenly divided between buildings and infrastructure on the one hand and woodland or agricultural fields on the other. It contains the upper valley of the River Darenth and some headwaters of the River Eden.
The vast majority of the district is covered by the Metropolitan Green Belt.
In terms of districts, it borders Dartford to the north, Gravesham to the northeast, Tonbridge and Malling to the east, briefly Tunbridge Wells to the southeast. It also borders two which, equal to it, do not have borough status, the Wealden district of East Sussex to the south and the Tandridge district of Surrey to the southwest. It borders the London Boroughs of Bromley and Bexley to the northwest.
The council consists of 54 elected councillors, representing fewer wards in the district.
The third tier of government within the district consists of the following town and parish councils:
The layout of the district is dual-centred:
In all areas low-rise dominates: the incidence of flats exceeding two storeys is rare.
The number of listed buildings in the district exceeds 150. This includes 16 churches listed in the highest grading in the national listing system (Grade I). Castles and English country houses of the wealthiest in society from the 16th to 18th centuries form part of this district.
Examples at Grade I include Knole House, Chartwell, Penshurst Place and Chevening House, most of which have their own produce-selling farms. Older with original stone walls are Hever Castle with its 16 acres (6.5 ha)-wooded island in a listed parkland. A folly exists at Lullingstone Castle which is a reconstruction of its gatehouse and separate modern house.