Shark fin. Photo by Tom Burke.

Sharks have been around for over 400 million years and have survived no less than four mass extinctions, including the one that killed off the dinosaurs. That says a lot about these toothy, cartilaginous fishes. Even to this day, they are the dominant marine species in the world’s oceans, and only killer whales can rival their rule.

So, with that in mind, we need to enter the water with utmost respect. In most bodies of water (even rivers, in some cases), sharks are present, and they generally leave us alone. But, in some places, the waters are particularly “sharky,” and it’s possible that you may experience an encounter. These are the world’s “sharkiest” locations, according to the International Shark Attack File.

11. New Zealand

New Chums Beach, New Zealand. Photo by Piotr Zurek.

New Zealand is renowned as Middle Earth and bastion for hobbits, but it also has its share of sharks. Since 1852, the South Pacific island nation has experienced 50 confirmed shark attacks, many of which have occurred in the Otago region on the South Island and the more heavily populated Auckland region on the North Island.

In the temperate waters around New Zealand, great white sharks are most common. Around Stewart Island, encounters with these large predators have become especially dangerous thanks to the shark cage diving industry, which began in 2007.

10. Western Australia

Busselton Jetty. Western Australia. Public Domain.

Since 1700, Western Australia has experienced 79 shark attacks. Compared to other places on this list, that may not seem like much. However, Western Australia is among the least populous of Australia states. The beaches there are not less sharky; they’re just less frequented by bathers.

In the northern parts of the state, swimmers, surfers, and divers often encounter formidable tiger sharks. In the southern parts of the state, they often encounter great white sharks. Both of these shark species deserve utmost respect.

9. North Carolina

Carolina Beach Pier. Photo by Annebethmi.

North Carolina is the first US state on the list, and for good reason. Since 1935, North Carolina has experienced 60 sharks attacks. That’s more than the entire country of New Zealand.

All of North Carolina’s beaches are prone to shark activity, but the Outer Banks and the southeast portions have logged the most attacks. Even so, unless you’re out in the ocean alone (especially on a remote, unpatrolled beach), you’ll be just fine.

8. South Carolina

Myrtle Beach. Public Domain.

With 90 shark attacks recorded since 1837, South Carolina is next on the list, pushing ahead of North Carolina by 30 attacks. South Carolina’s coastline is not as expansive as North Carolina’s, but that doesn’t mean there are less sharks around.

Of course, South Carolina’s shark attack records precede North Carolina’s by nearly 100 years, but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t mean much. In order to reach North Carolina, sharks must migrate past South Carolina every year.

7. Brazil

Shark warning sign in Brazil. Photo by Adam Jones.

Brazil is next, and with 102 attacks recorded since 1931, we’ve finally broken 100. Interestingly, neither Rio de Janeiro nor São Paulo have more than 11 recorded attacks. Since both of these areas are highly populated and popular for beachgoers, we’d expect to see a higher rate of shark attacks, but this is not the case.

Instead, the smaller state of Pernambunco has experienced more than half of the nation’s shark attacks. With 56 attacks, you’d probably want to exercise caution at the beaches in that area.

6. California

Venice, California. Photo by Steven W. Belcher.

At 116 documented shark attacks since 1926, the US state of California barely beats out Brazil. But California is a big state, and her coastlines are vast. With a population of over 38 million (and millions more tourists), people and sharks are bound to cross paths.

In the cold North Pacific waters, where seals and sea lions are plentiful, great white sharks are common. Combine that with a serious surfing culture, and you have a recipe for a possible encounter. Luckily, in most cases, sharks and surfers swim side-by-side without any negative repercussions.

5. Hawaii

Shark warning sign in Hawaii. Photo by Christine Cabal.

Hawaii is the next US state on the list. Despite its size, relatively small population, and isolation from the US mainland, it has has experienced 143 shark attacks since 1828. The main perpetrator is the tiger shark, which thrives in Hawaii’s tropical waters.

While touristy Oahu (where Honolulu is located) has experienced 38 shark attacks, most of the shark attacks have occurred in Maui. 56 of them, to be more specific. Of Hawaii’s six main islands, Maui’s numbers make up more than a third of Hawaii’s shark attacks.

4. Queensland

A surfer heading out at Currumbin beach with the Gold Coast skyline in the background
A surfer at Currumbin beach, Queensland. Photo by Steven Johnson.

Returning to the Land Down Under, we venture to the state of Queensland, where 186 shark attacks have been recorded since 1700. Queensland is a massive state with a great deal of climactic and geographical changes from north to south. From bull sharks and tiger sharks in the tropical north to great whites and bronze whalers in the temperate south, the shark species vary greatly, and so do the attacks.

If sharks weren’t bad enough, in Queensland’s tropical north, saltwater crocodiles are also a problem. These huge reptiles are the largest in the world, and they have a nasty temper. They are also very capable of inhabiting beaches and even crossing oceans.

3. New South Wales

Manly Beach, New South Wales. Photo by Enoch Lau.

New South Wales is next on the list, and as the most populous Australian state, it also has the most records of shark attacks in all of Australia. With 229 attacks recorded since 1700, New South Wales has a very high amount of shark activity.

While most of the shark attacks have everything to do with Australians’ love for water activities, you should still exercise caution. Great whites, tiger sharks, bull sharks, and bronze whalers are all present in the temperate waters of New South Wales. If you plan to go for a swim, stick to a patrolled beach, and swim between the flags. You will be perfectly safe there.

2. South Africa

Shark warning sign in Salt Rock, South Africa. Photo by ChrisDHDR.

With 249 shark attacks recorded since 1905, South Africa has seen its share of sharks, and the shark species vary based on the location. The country is divided between the more temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the more tropical waters of the Indian Ocean to the east.

In the west, great whites are the most common suspects in attacks. Meanwhile, in the east, tiger sharks and bull sharks are the most common suspects. All three of these species are quite powerful and dangerous, making South Africa a hotspot for fatal shark attacks.

1. Florida

New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Photo by Rae K Hauck.

Compared with Australia and South Africa, Florida might surprise you. But, since 1882, Florida has witnessed 748 shark attacks. Considering the entire United States has a total of 1301 documented shark attacks, that is a significant chunk of attacks, and none of the other locations on this list (even outside the US) can compare.

However, if you’re planning a Florida vacation (or happen to live there), there’s no need to worry. The majority of these attacks are minor and carried out by small sharks. But, if that’s little comfort to you, express caution in Volusia and Brevard counties. Of Florida’s 748 attacks, 405 of these attacks have occurred in these two counties. However, that’s probably because they’re incredibly popular locations for water activities. The more people in the water, the greater the likelihood of a shark attack.

Just because you’re in a boat doesn’t mean the sharks can’t get at you!

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