Sharks In The Shallows: Do Sharks Come Close To Shore?

do sharks come close to shore

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Sharks are some of the most feared animals on earth, in fact, over 51% of Americans admit to being terrified of these animals.

Whilst some species do look rather menacing, they’re not the man-eating monsters that Hollywood makes them out to be through films like “JAWS”.

Nevertheless, coming face to face with an apex predator can be unnerving, especially given that there are around 80 unprovoked attacks globally every year.

Today, we answer a question that many beach-goers, surfers, and swimmers are keen to learn the answer to. “Do sharks come close to shore?”

YES, sharks will and do come close to the shore in search of a meal. They will come as close as they need to, with some species even swimming upriver and into surf zones in search of prey.

Do Sharks Come Close To The Beach?

Sharks come very close to the beach when searching for food. Coastal waters can provide lots of opportunities for sharks, so they’ll often roam the shoreline to take advantage.

Whilst this may be shocking news for some, you would be surprised at just how often sharks do come to shore.

Even some of the largest and most deadly species of shark such as the Great white will hug shorelines all across the globe waiting for a quick and easy meal.

How Far Do Sharks Come Into Shore?

Sharks will come VERY close to the shore if they can. Even the largest shark species have been spotted just feet away from the beach in very shallow waters.

In recent years, drone footage has been able to capture some sharks coming incredibly close to the shore, often in just 3 – 5 feet of water.

do sharks come close to the shore
Image: Elias Levy via Flickr

So long as the shark is capable of getting back out to the ocean when needed, it will come as close as it needs to the shoreline in search of food.

Bull sharks in particular are known for coming close to the shore. This species will often enter estuaries, river mouths, and bays which is why it’s the most dangerous shark species in the world.

According to the Florida Museum, most shark attacks happen in the surf zone in just 6 to 10 feet of water.

Why Do Sharks Come Into Shore?

Sharks coming into shore may be a terrifying thought, but they’re not coming in because they’re bloodthirsty killers that want to eat a human meal.

Coming to shore can be dangerous for sharks, not only are they putting themselves at risk of being hit by boats and vessels, but in some countries such as Australia, they actively kill sharks in an attempt to protect ocean users.

Below are some reasons why sharks often come close to the shore:


One of the main reasons sharks come close to the shore is in search of food.

There is generally a denser population of fish in coastal areas due to greater upswelling and productivity of plankton, seagrass, coral, and kelp.

Many species of fish seek protection near the coast, often hiding in coral and seaweed to avoid predators.

A large reason why we see species like the Great white shark just feet off the coastline is that seals (their favorite food) are semi-aquatic and can be found in shallow waters.


Sharks also seek protection from the shore, especially when they are newly born.

Shoreline waters can be filled with coral and other interesting features that allow young sharks to hide from larger predators.


Some shark species such as the silvertip are known to live as far out as 800m but have recently been observed coming into the shore to up their grooming game.

They’ve been filmed coming into the shallow coastal waters of Cocos island where there’s a dense population of wrasse and angelfish.

These fish remove external parasites from the silvertip sharks and help to keep their skin healthy.

Give Birth

With over 500 shark species living in ocean habitats all over the world, many of them give birth to live young.

To help their young have the best chances of survival, mothers will typically come close to the shoreline in order to give birth in nursery areas that offer protection.

Food is more abundant near the shore, so it allows young sharks to grow quickly and learn the ropes before setting off to face the ocean alone.

Warmer Waters

Another benefit of coming close to the shoreline for sharks is that the waters are often much warmer than out in the ocean.

Hanging out in warm waters with an abundance of food is a paradise for sharks, and it’s likely a nice break from cold, rough waters where they can expend less energy.

When Do Sharks Come Into Shore?

Sharks can regularly be seen near the shore in the summertime, as this is when the waters are the warmest and also when sharks tend to give birth to their young.

They also prefer to feed at either dusk or dawn when natural light is beginning to change, so this is when you can typically find them coming into shore.

shark near the shore
Image: Klaus Stiefel via Flickr

That said, sharks can be close to the shore at any time of the day, with some species preferring to hunt under the cover of darkness and at night.

It totally depends on the species, as well as the shark’s preferences that day.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a clear answer to “do sharks come close to shore” and have learned more about the reasons why they do so.

Sharks are not coming to shore to purposely attack humans, instead, the shore offers a number of benefits which includes food, protection, and warmth.

It only makes sense that sharks would come close to the shore when looking at the benefits they get from doing so.

Sadly this means that they do often come into contact with humans and may be much closer than you would like to think.

The reality is that sharks are coming close to the shore all of the time in search of food, so please be vigilant next time you’re in the ocean and you know sharks could be in the area.

Catch you in the next one.