Knowing that we were going on holiday in the area and that a detour to Martha's Vineyard was easy enough, we absolutely had to go location-hunting for Jaws. Most of the film had been shot there, interiors and exteriors.
Martha's Vineyard is of course different from how Amity Island appears. It's quite large, with several towns. It's history is in whaling, not sharks, with the island of Nantucket just to the east - the opening location for the events of Moby Dick. Ferries, large and small, arrive from all directions from the mainland to several different docks. Amity appears to be quite isolated, but the fast ferry from Hyannis took us less than an hour.
In preparation for a home-made tour, we watched the film and read the paperbacks (see this previous article about the making of Jaws). We were only there two full days - Day 1 was spent in Edgartown, where we stayed. I picked up a copy of Memories of Martha's Vineyard - a map inside confirmed additional locations that we could visit next day. We hired a car for Day 2 and visited all compass points of the island. For those with more time on their hands, there are bus routes over most of the island, as well as coach tours.
Edgartown was used as the hub of the fictional Amity Island. This is where most of the buildings and street scenes were shot. The dock area has been heavily remodelled since the movie, but the tiny car ferry where Police Chief Brody locks horns with the mayor is still operational. This is also where Jaws had a production office. All these locations are only a few minutes away from each other, on foot.
AMITY TOWN HALL
|Edgartown Town Hall stood in for Amity Town Hall.
|In the meeting room farthest from the street, the big clock and the curved desk were in the film
|Just inside the Town Hall main entrance - note the corridor and floor tiles
|The delicatessen is between the Town Hall and the crossroads
|An original prop from the movie inside the delicatessen
AMITY MAIN STREET
|Amity 'Main Street' - the crossroads where Chief Brody gets caught up with the marching band - turn left here to get to the Town Hall
|Turn around and go uphill from the crossroads
- this road leads to the 'Amity Police House'
|The gatepost (bottom left) was in the shot where Brody leaves the police house from this side entrance and walks (left to right) on a mission to get sign-making supplies
|Street view of the Amity Police House (now a private residence)
|Across the road from the Amity Police House
is this impressive tree, there at the time of filming
|The bike shop in between the Police House and the crossroads
|Also on this street - this house stood in for the Amity newspaper office
|Back at the crossroads, turn right to go to the docks, or straight ahead to see the 'office'.
The shop you see on the left is where they run the Jaws Walking Tours
|The trees behind the crossroads (seen behind the marching band) - leads towards the Jaws Production Office
|Jaws production office - front door
|Production office - front door
|Production office - side entrance
|Sheriff, you're going to need a much bigger boat...
|Edgartown harbour as it is now
|The Edgartown Gallery building influenced the design of Quint's fishing shack (built on the other side of the island)
|The gallery is just behind the car ferry
- they avoid showing it clearly in the film
|Side view of gallery - as seen from the ferry
|Pricey for such a short ride, but the road's washed out
|You can just see the Edgartown lighthouse in the background
|Getting on the ferry - gallery building in the background
|Perhaps Spielberg sat here...
|Edgartown lighthouse on Chappaquiddick
- one of five lighthouses on the island
These photos probably appear meaningless to anyone who hasn't seen the movie, and also fairly meaningless even if you have. The memorable action in the film takes place on beaches, no longer recognisable, and at sea, with only the horizon visible in the background. But the visit gave me a great appreciation of how much was done with so little. Of course it means a lot personally to visit the location of a movie that made such a lasting impression 35 years earlier. But really, for anyone to connect with the story, all you have to do is find a beach and be brave enough to enter the water.
On the next part of this tour of Amity Island we'll head south, to the beach, and west to where Quint lived...
JAWS filming locations, part 2 - South and West: bonfire beach and Quint's dock
A Jaws-themed Walking Tour is run from Edgartown, click here for details.
This website has a simple hitlist of the best locations - on Movie-Locations.com
This site on IGN was invaluable for before and after pictures.
( All photographs in this post are copyright of Mark Hodgson and David Tarrington © 2011 )