SANDY HOOK, N.J. - And the best beach in New Jersey is . . . Wildwood's.
That's the verdict from residents and tourists who voted for months in an online poll to select the top spot on New Jersey's 127-mile coast.
A coalition of environmental and tourism groups sponsored the poll to select the state's 10 best beaches, and announced the winner yesterday.
More than 16,000 votes were cast, rating beaches based on water quality, access and aesthetics.
The three beaches that comprise the Wildwood resort area - Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood - all placed within the top four statewide.
"We are so excited but not surprised," said Ben Rose, a regional spokesman for the Wildwoods. "It shows that the 9 million people that visit the Wildwoods every year understand how fun it is here."
Wildwood is an uncommonly wide beach - so much so that some visitors complain about the long walk from the boardwalk to the water's edge. That has led to some creative solutions, ranging from beach buggies to camel rides; the latter was quickly shot down.
Wildwood is also a hotbed of '50s doo-wop culture, and is home to many oldies festivals and antique-car-cruise nights. And it is one of only four Ocean beaches in New Jersey that don't require people to buy a beach badge.
Winning communities will receive signs announcing the honor, not to mention bragging rights in the highly competitive Shore tourism market.
Voting had been done since early February, as New Jerseyans - as well as visitors from other states - weighed the relative merits of Garden State shore spots.
There was the nudist chic of Sandy Hook, the frat-house din of Belmar, and the big-hair allure of Seaside Heights.
There was the Victorian splendor of Cape May (the No. 5 winner) and Ocean Grove.
There was the pristine splendor of Island Beach State Park - a place so good, New Jersey's governor gets a beach house there.
And there was the family-friendly appeal of places like Ocean City, which bills itself as "America's Greatest Family Resort," or the eternal hope of a Bruce Springsteen sighting in Asbury Park (No. 6.)
Island Beach State Park won a special award for best beach for ecotourism, due largely to the fact that it is mostly undeveloped aside from the governor's summer house. *