The history of the district is largely influenced by the city of Coburg. From 1826 to 1918, the region was part of the small duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (see Thuringia). In a referendum from 1919, the Coburg portion of this state decided to join Bavaria (united in 1920). The present district is identical to that portion, but excludes the city of Coburg and the exclave of Königsberg, which is part of Haßberge district. The city of Neustadt was a district-free city until 1972 and was then incorporated into the district.
The district is located in the hilly country between the Thuringian Slate Mountains and the Main valley.