N-doped ZnO/g-C3N4 hybrid core–shell nanoplates have been successfully prepared via a facile, cost-effective and eco-friendly ultrasonic dispersion method for the first time. HRTEM studies confirm the formation of the N-doped ZnO/g-C3N4 hybrid core–shell nanoplates with an average diameter of 50 nm and the g-C3N4 shell thickness can be tuned by varying the content of loaded g-C3N4. The direct contact of the N-doped ZnO surface and g-C3N4 shell without any adhesive interlayer introduced a new carbon energy level in the N-doped ZnO band gap and thereby effectively lowered the band gap energy. Consequently, the as-prepared hybrid core–shell nanoplates showed a greatly enhanced visible-light photocatalysis for the degradation of Rhodamine B compare to that of pure N-doped ZnO surface and g-C3N4. Based on the experimental results, a proposed mechanism for the N-doped ZnO/g-C3N4 photocatalyst was discussed. Interestingly, the hybrid core–shell nanoplates possess high photostability. The improved photocatalytic performance is due to a synergistic effect at the interface of the N-doped ZnO and g-C3N4 including large surface-exposure area, energy band structure and enhanced charge-separation properties. Significantly, the enhanced performance also demonstrates the importance of evaluating new core–shell composite photocatalysts with g-C3N4 as shell material.