In less than two months I'll be taking part in the famed Viable Paradise writing workshop. The workshop takes place in Martha's Vineyard, the island off the coast of Massachusetts. It will be my fourth trip to island. Martha's Vineyard is where Steven Spielberg's film Jaws was filmed (as was the first sequel), so I turned my first trip to the island into a pilgrimage and visited as many of the Jaws locations as we could find.
The difficulties of filming the movie have been written about in several books, most recently this one. But you don't need a book to find the movie's locations -- you can just visit the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce and get a map:
If you watch the movie before you tour the locations, it becomes clear that Spielberg created "Amity," the island resort in the movie, by tying together really disparate locations on the island with what filmmakers call "eyeline matches" -- characters look at something from one location, but what they see in the next shot is actually a very different place.
For example, in the opening sequence, the girl is swimming in Edgartown Harbor -- you can see Chappaquiddick beach in the background and the buoy. The boy who runs onto the beach with her, and the whole beach party, is on South Beach.
When Brody leaves his house, the house is to his left on East Chop. The view of the sea on his right in the next shot is a completely different side of the island, and then the big billboard with the shark fin is in Aquinnah, yet another completely different end of the island.
The easiest location to find is the American Legion Memorial Bridge & Sengekontacket Pond, as any visitor will have to drive over that bridge at some point. The bridge has been renovated so it looks quite different from how it did in the movie, but the pond is quickly recognizable -- assuming a fog hasn't rolled in that blocks your view of the water completely.
If you want the thrill of kayacking over that pond yourself, you can contact the Felix Neck Audobon Sanctuary and go on one of their kayak tours of the pond. They also offer the tours on nights when there is a full moon.
Various scenes of Roy Scheider trying to work out his conflict with the Mayor of Amity are shot in Edgartown, which is a well-preserved whaling village. If you've read Moby Dick (the entire island read it together a couple of year's ago) walking through Edgartown will make you feel like you are in one of the chapters of that book. That's not a coincidence; Melville found some of his inspiration for the story on the island. You can find out more about the island's whaling history at the Martha's Vineyard Whaling Museum. If Moby Dick is too intimidating, you can read about whaling from a child's point of view in Laura Jernigan's diary of her three years on a whale ship with her father.
At the end of Daggett Street, at the northern end of town, you’ll find the Chappaquiddick Island Ferry. This ferry was featured in the film. You need to take it if you want to visit Chappaquiddick bridge, where Ted Kennedy's car went into the water.
To see the lighthouse at Gayhead, hike the beach at Aquinna, or visit Menemsha, where the old salt Quint had his shed, you need to travel to the other wilder end of the island. At Menemsha you can refresh yourself after your long journey with raw oysters, and finish off your meal with an ice cream cone while you contemplate what's left of the wreckage of the Orca.