Voting started Monday in the contest, sponsored by the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium and Richard Stockton College's Costal Resource Center. Ballots can be cast online at www.njtoptenbeaches.org.
The contest was started in 2008 to encourage stewardship of and pride in the state's beaches while promoting a competition for bragging rights among New Jersey's favorite beach towns. Previous versions asked beachgoers to share their favorite memories and photos of the Jersey shore.
New wrinkles in this year's contest ask beachgoers to consider specific things about their favorite beaches, including how much it costs to access the beach and whether amenities such as parking and restrooms are available.
"This year we're asking people to take a little time to really think about the criteria that make the places they pick worthy of winning a spot on the 2014 Top Ten list," said Kim Kosko, a spokeswoman for the Sea Grant Consortium. "We want them to realize how important our beaches and other coastal assets are and that we're all responsible for their well-being. What we do today directly impacts the future of shore communities."
This year's contest also ends the regional groupings that had allowed clusters of beaches to compete as a single unit in past years. For instance, Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood had for many years competed as a single entity, The Wildwoods. This year, each individual town will be voted on separately. The same goes for individual beach towns on Long Beach Island.
Voting runs through April 30. Winners will be announced on May 22.
The contest was suspended last year while parts of the shore struggled to recover from the damage Sandy caused on Oct. 29, 2012.
In the most recent voting, in 2012, The Wildwoods took top honors, followed by Ocean City, Long Beach Island, Sea Isle City, Belmar, Cape May, Manasquan, Island Beach State Park, Sandy Hook and Seaside Heights.