The island of Sadiyat lies immediately to the northeast of Abu Dhabi island, and is geologically similar, a combination of low limestone and aeolianite (fossil dune) outcrops, with a covering of small dunes of mobile sand, and extensive areas of sabkha (salt flats) on its sheltered, (eastern) side.
The island of Balghelam, important for its archaeological sites, lies to the east in a shallow lagoonal area.
Like Abu Dhabi, Bahrani and Al-Aryam, Sadiyat is a barrier island facing out into the Arabian Gulf, and protecting shallow lagoonal areas that represent submerged ancient deltas. Vegetation is largely halophytic (salt-tolerant) scrub, although mangroves (Avicennia marina) are found along the sheltered parts of the coastline. A number of seabirds and shorebirds nest on the least-disturbed parts of the island, including Saunder's little tern (Sterna saundersi) and Kentish plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), while the sheltered shores are important feeding sites for migrant shorebirds. Humpbacked dolphins (Sousa chinensis) have been observed delivering their young in adjacent waters.
Just opposite Abu Dhabi's major port of Mina Zayed, the northwestern coast of Sadiyat has been developed as an industrial zone. Plans have now been drawn up for the creation of a Free Zone on the island, which will also operate as an offshore commodities trading and financial centre.