The East coast of India is subject to continuous changes by high energy events. We sought to assess the depositional conditions along the coast from the geophysical and sedimentological character of the dune sands of the Gopalpur and Paradeep coast of Odisha, and the Sagarnagar coast of North Visakhapatnam. Quartz layers of the heavy mineral-rich zone collected at a depth of ~2 m from the landward foot of the dunes in the Visakhapatnam and Odisha coast, gave the OSL age estimates as 1,050±50 and 260±10 years respectively, revealing that the age of the dunes in Visakhapatnam are older than those on the Odisha coast. Episodic high energy events have affected the coast. Evidence from ground penetrating radar data consists of three stratigraphic units. The upper unit consists of vague reflections, parallel to the ground in continuous manner, most probably formed by wind action. On the other hand, the middle layer shows high amplitude reflections of heavy mineral-rich massive layers, possibly the result of tsunami activity. The lower massive layer parallel to the ground surface shows a low reflection pattern. The GPR studies showed that the thickness of the heavy mineral layers is greater on the landward foot of the dune as compared to that on the seaward side. According to the grain size analysis, the dune is composed of both wind generated and tsunamigenic sediments. The scanning electron microscope studies revealed that the heavy minerals present in the dunes are mainly sillimanite, ilmenite, garnet, pyroxene, rutile, sphene, biotite, hornblende, zircon, monazite and magnetite. The study demonstrates the origin of sand dunes in different ages along the East Coast of India by the effect of various natural phenomena. © Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013.