No creature on earth has captured man’s imagination more ferociously than the ocean’s greatest predator: the shark. Adapted perfectly to suit their environment, and driven by instincts older than time, these silent sentinels of the deep have inspired countless documentaries, films and TV shows. But why just watch them onscreen when you can satisfy your curiosity up close and in person? To help you plan a jaw-some vacation, here are a few family-friendly destinations guaranteed to make a fin-tastic getaway!
Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. – Jaws Tour
Peter Benchley set his novel “Jaws” in the fictional town of Amity, a sleepy seaside resort on Long Island. When Steven Spielberg directed the film version, he chose Martha’s Vineyard, just south of Cape Cod, as his primary location. Fans of the classic movie can take a 45-minute ferry ride to the island and explore its historic charm. Once there, don’t miss the “Jaws” tour. This informative guided tour points out the many shooting locations, including the Amity Police Station, Chief Brody’s house, the hardware store (in case you need to make any “Beach Closed” signs) and the dock where Quint’s shop once stood. You can even take a dip at the same beach where the doomed Chrissie met her fate in the movie’s terrifying opening scene. If you’re not too scared, that is.
Las Vegas – Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay
It’s hard to imagine a place where you’d be less likely to encounter a shark than the arid Nevada desert, but guests at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas can actually swim with them. Opened in 2000, this world-renowned aquarium contains a 1.3 million gallon tank, one of the largest in North America. Visitors can see numerous shark species, as well as sea turtles, rays, piranha, crocodiles and a Komodo dragon. The exhibit features a “touch pool,” where kids can get hands-on with several aquatic creatures, and a glass tunnel to give you a perfect view during feeding time. Certified divers can take the plunge and swim with over 30 sharks in the main tank, while those who’d rather stay in bed and order room service can turn on the in-room Shark Reef channel and watch them live, 24 hours a day.
Hawaii – Shark Encounters Tour
If you’ve ever fantasized about staring directly into a shark’s cold, black eyes, then Hawaii Shark Encounters will help make your dreams a reality. The tour takes guests three miles out into the gorgeous waters off the North Shore of Oahu, where those brave enough can enter a specially-designed underwater cage and view Galapagos and Sandbar sharks in their natural habitat. On rare occasions, an elusive Tiger shark or a majestic Humpback whale might glide into view. Since the cage is equipped with quarter-inch thick Polyglass, no diving experience is necessary before facing the thrill of a lifetime. Best of all, if you don’t see a shark, you don’t pay!
Indianapolis, Ind. – USS Indianapolis Museum
On July 30, 1945, having just delivered parts for the first atomic bomb to a U.S. air base in the Mariana Islands, the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine and sank in 12 minutes. What followed remains the greatest single loss of life at sea in U.S. Naval history and the worst shark attack ever recorded. To commemorate the sacrifice of those who played such a pivotal role in ending WWII, the USS Indianapolis Museum was opened in 2007. Patrons will learn the fascinating history of this tragic event through personal stories told by the survivors, as well as photos and genuine artifacts retrieved from the wreck. The museum, which includes an exact replica of the ship’s radio room, is a must-visit for history buffs and a fitting tribute to the men who served aboard her.