Travel Stories

Will You Really See Sharks Where 'Sharknado,' 'Shark Week' and 'Jaws' Were Filmed?

The truth about sharks in some of TV and film's sharkiest locations
by Jess Moss Posted Jul 28th 2014 11:12a.m.
Jess is senior editor at MapQuest and lives every day like it's Shark Week. 

Between TV and movie spots and the news flurry around shark sightings around the U.S., Jaws and Co. are living large this summer. With all the Hollywood fanfare and media frenzy, you'd think a shark encounter is a normal part of going to the beach.

In reality, sharks don't like you as much as you think they do. They don't want to eat people, and unless you go out looking for one, you probably won't see a shark this summer. But you never know. Let's dive into some of pop culture's biggest shark spots to uncover the truth about their real-life sharkiness factors.

New York City

This week’s weather forecast for New York is cloudy with a chance of … sharks. "Sharknado 2" premieres July 30 on Syfy, raining a bloody hurricane of flying sharks onto the city’s subways, streets and even Citi Field. Will Ian Zeiring and Tara Reid (who thinks sharknados are real) be able to fight off the invaders yet again? We’ll have to wait and see. In real life, NYC wildlife is usually associated more with rats and pigeons than sharks, but this has been an active summer for shark sightings around New York, mostly by fishermen.

Syfy/Sharknado 2

Will you see sharks in New York City? Fuggedaboutit. At beaches around the city, you’ll most likely only encounter mobs of sunbathers and some Coney Island hotdogs. Most recent sightings have been by people fishing in offshore boats. In the city, until the New York Aquarium's giant new shark exhibit opens, if you really want to see sharks, go to Spring Lounge, which has sharks mounted on the wall and a beer guzzling shark mural on the outside facade.   

Cape Town, South Africa

"Shark Week," Discovery Channel's week-long run of shark programming beloved by shark geeks, nature nuts and Tracy Morgan followers, kicks off its 27th season on August 10. The hallmark program, "Air Jaws," features mesmerizing footage of great whites leaping out of the water to chase seals in False Bay, near Cape Town. As technology improves year after year, so do the shots of the sharks’ acrobatics, but the animals are just as awesome witnessed in person, without the slow motion cameras.

The shark-rich waters around Seal Island are no Hollywood set, and those who venture out on a boat or into a cage are often get sightings of these impressive animals in their natural habitat. 

Discovery Channel/Shark Week

Will you see sharks in Cape Town? Yes, probably, if you go looking for them. Shark tourism is an extremely popular (and controversial) activity among visitors to Cape Town and nearby False Bay. Outfitters like Great White Shark Tours and Apex Shark Expeditions lead cage diving tours where you can (safely) observe the animals in their natural habitat. There's a lot of debate about the sustainability of these cage diving tours, but for now they continue to run. 

Los Angeles

Syfy took the country by giant sharky storm last summer, dropping tornados of chomping sharks onto innocent L.A. beachgoers and Tara Reid. A beach town at heart, Los Angeles makes the news when shark spotters sight the animals and when surfers with GoPros capture close encounters. A recent attack off Manhattan Beach blew up the news wires this summer, but don’t let this keep you out of the water; shark attacks in Los Angeles are incredibly rare. 


Will you see sharks in Los Angeles? Your chances of watching sharks in the wild here are pretty low, unless you’re a surfer. You’re actually more likely to get injured driving to the beach in a car than you are to encounter a shark in L.A. When the animals do make an appearance, the L.A. lifeguards put up signs and monitor the water. If you want to take a shark tour, you're better off heading down to Mexico or up to San Francisco for a glimpse of the big great whites. 


Australia’s healthy population of sharks and active community of surfers, swimmers and water enthusiasts provide enough run-ins that the country’s beaches are often prominently featured on Shark Week. This year’s program includes an attempt to study some of Oz’s great whites (or white pointers, as the locals call them) to see what prompts attacks.

While whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks all cruise the waters, the bigger concern for Aussie swimmers should be a run-in with the lethal box jellyfish, named the most dangerous animal down under by the Australian Museum in Sydney.


Will you see sharks in Australia? It depends where you are. There are shark diving tours out of Adelaide, and divers on the Great Barrier Reef often cross paths with reef sharks and other species. Over on the west coast, Ningaloo Reef is one of the best places in the world to swim with giant (peaceful!) whale sharks.  

Martha’s Vineyard

The small island off Nantucket helped define Hollywood’s fascination with sharks when it filled in for Amity Island in the 1975 film "Jaws." Like its movie alterego, Martha’s Vineyard is a common summer destination for great white sharks. Unlike the demonic killing machine in the movie, these animals are more interested in chowing down on the local seal population, not on humans.

Universal Pictures/Jaws

Will you see sharks in Martha's Vineyard? Maybe. Recent conservation efforts have grown a healthy seal population in the waters around Cape Cod, and this attracts the sharks. Attacks here are extremely rare. Martha's Vineyard authorities monitor shark sightings and sometimes close down the beaches (cue the Amity Island mayor’s grumbles). Your best bet for a "Jaws" encounter here and in nearby Nantucket and Cape Cod beach towns is to pick up some shark-themed paraphernalia or track down one of the places in the movie and pretend.

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Jess Moss is senior editor at MapQuest. She lives every week like it's "Shark Week" and has been cage diving with great whites off South Africa. Follow Jess on Twitter and Instagram.  

Watch: Camera attached to a shark's fin
Watch: Camera attached to a shark's fin