The Popular East Coast Tourist Destination To Visit For A Look At Where Jaws Was Filmed

There aren't many Hollywood blockbusters that have the same sense of place as Steven Spielberg's "Jaws," the 1975 smash hit that kickstarted the summer event movie trend that continues today. Set in the coastal resort of Amity Island, the action follows three men as they hunt down a killer great white shark that is feeding off the sandy shores, only to become the prey when they venture out to sea to catch the beast. Much of the classic film's longevity is down to the mismatched buddy dynamic between the trio; Roy Scheider as the hydrophobic Chief of Police, Martin Brody; Richard Dreyfuss as the cocky young oceanographer, Matt Hooper; and, best of all, Robert Shaw as the menacing old sea dog, Quint.

It has become a cliche to say a location is a character in the movie, so let's just say that Amity Island is really key to the film's breezy atmosphere. The quaint small town, wide sandy beaches, and boisterous community spirit all feel incredibly real, and you can almost taste the salt spray in the air when the shark hunt gets underway. The location is so authentic that it may come as a surprise that Amity doesn't exist, invented by author Peter Benchley for the best-selling novel that inspired the film. For the real Amity, you need to take a trip to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. But almost 50 years on, does it still feel like the location of "Jaws?"

How Martha's Vineyard landed the Jaws gig

Martha's Vineyard, situated seven miles south off the coast of Cape Cod, is a resort destination much like Amity Island; each year, the island's population of around 23,000 is boosted by over 200,000 summer visitors. This was one factor that came into play when locations were considered for Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel. The author originally placed Amity on the Long Island coast, but the producers wanted somewhere a little more modest where a killer shark could believably damage the tourist trade, which is a big plot point in the story. 

Martha's Vineyard and its largest town, Edgartown, fit the bill perfectly. The waters off the coast were also a draw; Spielberg insisted on shooting his movie on the ocean and the shallows were ideal for the director to film his mechanical sharks just offshore. Relocating the action to an island also made sense from a dramatic standpoint; surrounded by water, it gave the impression that the characters were under siege from the man-eater.

Perhaps understandably for a seaside resort that attracts a lively summer trade, Edgartown doesn't make a big deal out of its connection to a movie that made people afraid to go into the water. Yet almost half a century since "Jaws" both thrilled and terrified audiences, the white clapboard buildings are instantly recognizable for fans of the film and several major shooting locations are in the area.

Edgartown was the location of many Jaws scenes

Movie buffs will get "Jaws" vibes just wandering the streets of historic Edgartown, which became a prosperous whaling port in the 18th and 19th Century. The downtown area is lined with many gorgeous white houses from the period that have been carefully restored, some of which provided locations for the movie. Serious "Jaws" nerds will identify the Amity Police Station and the Amity Gazette offices on South Water Street, and the harbor barely looks different from the hectic scenes where Chief Brody first meets Matt Hooper.

Also still running from the harbor is the Chappy Ferry, transporting vehicles across the short stretch of water to Chappaquiddick Island several times a day throughout the summer. The vessel was the setting for a key confrontation between Brody and Amity's oily mayor, played so wonderfully by Murray Hamilton.

Several of the shark attack set pieces were also filmed nearby. The opening bonfire where we meet the first victim was shot on the South Beach, while her fateful decision to go skinny dipping at night was staged on Cow Beach to the north of the town. Nearby is the location of the terrifying pond scene where Brody's eldest son almost gets eaten, filmed in the Sengekontacket Pond. This is also where the American Legion Memorial Bridge, also known colloquially as the "Jaws Bridge," can be seen. Once you're done location spotting, Martha's Vineyard offers plenty of great places where you can grab a bite of your own.