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As seaside towns across the US ready their boardwalks, beaches and storefronts for the annual crush of summertime tourists, opening New Jersey’s 130 miles of coastline – a key seaside destination for New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians as well – has required far more work than unfurling umbrellas and firing up the grill.

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy demolished miles of beach along the US Eastern seaboard and left thousands of residents without homes or places of employment. But few places were hit as badly as the Jersey Shore, where the storm made landfall.

But in the seven months that have passed, more than one billion federal dollars have been allocated to the response and recovery of the popular summer vacation destination – made famous by its waterfront casinos, towering roller coasters and reality television series – with nearly 500 agencies working towards disaster relief. While some of the shore’s most beloved areas, including Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights, were among the most devastated, efforts to have these beaches open for Memorial Day (27 May) are moving along with success.

“The destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy has brought this community together like never before. There is a much keener sense of appreciation for what we have here,” said Tom Dunphy, managing editor of Restoretheshore.com, a non-profit organisation working with local charities to rebuild the area. “People don't realise how much progress has been made. The beaches and boardwalks will be ready to go.”

The slowest area of recovery has been for homeowners, many of whom are still waiting on building directives from federal agencies and payouts from insurance companies. As these communities, especially Monmouth and Ocean counties that bore the brunt of the storm, work to rebuild, tourists should expect to see an overwhelming sense of pride and positivity in addition to a wide-open rental market.

“One piece of advice I would offer to tourists is to reach out to local realtors,” Dunphy said. “There are plenty of great places available for weekly or seasonal rentals.”

Grass roots organisations like Restore the Shore, Friends of Seaside Park and Hometown Heroes  have received support and funding to help provide immediate relief for local families, business and communities, with exciting events including the Restore the Shore Music Festival on 18 May on the beach in Seaside Park featuring local bands that welcomed several hundred people to the area to see the progress that’s been made to the oceanfront, and the ongoing Sandy Castle project, where professional sandcastle builder Ed Jarrett is attempting a Guinness World Record for the tallest sand castle (above 50ft) at Jenkinson’s Beach in Point Pleasant.

For those planning a trip, here is the status of some popular areas along the shore:

Sandy Hook, Monmouth County
Three of the six beach areas in town, B, Gunnison and North Beach, are scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend, while the Gateway National Recreation Area, a popular hiking, fishing and camping area, has been open since 1 May. Ferry services from downtown Manhattan to Sandy Hook will begin the weekend of 30 June and continue through 2 September.

Long Beach Island, Ocean County
Repairs to the beaches along this 18-mile island known for its summer rentals are on schedule for completion by 18 May. The island’s popular Thundering Surf Waterpark will open 25 May, with the Thundering Surf Adventure Golf Courses already open for the season.

Point Pleasant, Ocean County
Reconstruction work on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach is on schedule for completion this summer. The boardwalk’s most popular attractions, including the Jenkinson’s Aquarium, Entertainment Complex and South Amusement Park, are open for business.

Seaside Heights, Ocean County
Visitors will be able to access the famous mile-long boardwalk that needed to be completely restored after the storm on Memorial Day weekend, though some additional work will be required after the holiday. The Seaside Heights “JetStar” roller coaster, an iconic shoreline image that once sat on the Casino Pier, was removed from the ocean on 14 May, the same day that Britain’s Prince Harry toured the area.

Wildwood, Cape May
Located at the southern end of the shore, Wildwood’s five miles of beaches are free and open to the public. The two-mile boardwalk, named among the Top 10 American Boardwalks by Sherman’s Travel in 2009, includes three seaside rollercoasters and a beachfront waterpark, and the city’s well known Sightseer Tram Cars is also open.

Get more beach updates and news from the shore leading up to Memorial Day.

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