Its name is derived from being situated on the northern reach of what was once called the River Fleet (today known as the Ebbsfleet). There is a village at the other end of the river named Southfleet. It has been the site of a settlement on the shore of the River Thames adjacent to Gravesend since Roman times. It was recorded as Norfluet in the Domesday Book, and Northflet in 1201. By 1610 the name of Northfleet had become established. A battle took place during the English Civil War at the Stonebridge over the Ebbsfleet river.
Northfleet became a town in 1874 with the Northfleet Urban District Council being established circa 1894. In 1974 it was merged with the adjacent Borough of Gravesend as Gravesham Borough. Northfleet was in the lathe of Aylesford and the hundred of Toltingtrough. Northfleet had an estimated population of 66,000 in 2012.
In 1935 three areas of Northfleet--Claphall, Singlewell and King's Farm--were transferred to Gravesend.