5 Tips for Planning a Beach Bonfire with Kids

October 28, 2020millionmilermom

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When you think of summer fun, beach time probably tops the list. A close second, enjoying nighttime at the beach with a good old-fashion bonfire. Whether you DIY or leverage a hotel property with this as an amenity, it is a fun experience for all. Read on for tips for planning the perfect beach bonfire with kids.

1. Find a beach that allows bonfires.

First and foremost, do your homework and make sure bonfires are allowed at the beach you are planning to visit. To start, visit your state, county or city park’s website and you can usually filter by amenities to see if bonfires are allowed. Some will have designated fire pits and some will just ask that you use areas that have been previously used to avoid too much debris piling up from the fires.

Also, be sure to check the local weather forecast for any Spare the Air days (or red flag warnings) when wood-burning fires are typically not permitted.

2. Create the perfect ambiance.

Living his best life at the beach!

You may need more than usual for a beach bonfire as you will typically get there when it is light outside and leave when it is dark. The stark contrast in weather alone can warrant an outfit change. Some recommended items to pack are:

  • Firewood, kindling and something to start the fire
  • Shovel (if you’ll be digging a pit or to help extinguish the flames)
  • Beach chairs (maybe even a double chair to get cozy by the fire)
  • Beach blanket for ground
  • Warmer blankets for when it gets cold
  • Towels
  • Warm clothing for the evening (we packed winter jackets and were happy we had them!)
  • Portable speaker (Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM is lightweight and packs a nice punch for its compact size)
  • Flashlight
  • Portable table for food
  • Bag for trash
  • Beach toys

3. Gather your food and drink supplies.

At a minimum, bring supplies for S’mores so you can enjoy the classic campfire treat. Consider mixing it up with fun flavors of marshmallows, peanut butter or Nutella or different candy bars to swap in for Hersheys. Even better, bring some higher end chocolate for a more refined flavor.

It can be fun to also have dinner on the beach. Whether you grab takeout or bring a picnic, make sure to bring utensils, plates, cups and napkins to supplement your meal.

For drinks, check with your local government’s rules on alcohol on the beach.

Twin Lakes State Beach in Santa Cruz does allow beach bonfires.

4. Keeping Track of Kids

Most importantly, if you have kids in your party, you will want to choose a bonfire site slightly away from the water. We chose a spot further back which made clean-up and carrying tired kids to the car nice and easy. While the kids did have fun sitting in front of the fire and roasting marshmallows, they also wanted to run around and play. Consider bringing glow in the dark jewelry and cover the kids head to toe for an easy way to keep tabs on them.

5. Ending the Night

Please be sure to be a responsible beachgoer and clean-up after yourselves. Bringing a flashlight and trash bag can be tremendously helpful when trying to clean-up in the dark once the fire has been extinguished. If no trash cans are available, bring your trash home to dispose of.

Also ensure that your fire is fully extinguished and you follow any guidance from local authorities (ex. some places will not allow you to just cover the embers with sand as they still will remain hot). For our bonfire, we let it burn down, poured some water on it and waited until it was fully out.

READY TO BONFIRE? Here are some spots…

  • Twin Lakes State Beach (Santa Cruz, California) – while parking can be daunting (there is a paid lot closer to the harbor), having a beach with multiple restaurants adjacent and bathrooms is worth it! There are not actual fire pits but they ask that you use a spot previously used for a bonfire to help keep people spread out and debris at bay. No reservation system – it is first come, first serve.
  • Ocean Beach (San Francisco, California) – currently not available due to COVID and air quality but bookmark for 2021. There are 16 fire pits available for use.
  • Seascape Resort (Aptos, California) – if you want to outsource, check out Seascape Resort which offer beach fire packages for groups. They will provide all supplies for the fire as well as chairs, bottled water and the fixings for S’mores. There is an option to add on pizza and other food, too.
  • Sanctuary Beach Resort (Marina, California) – a high end resort nestled in a gorgeous, quiet spot on the Monterey Bay. They offer a similar experience to Seascape where they will set-up everything for you.

Do you have a favorite place to do beach bonfires? Please share your suggestions in the comments.

Comments (22)

  • Shanelle Jarrel

    October 28, 2020 at 2:46 pm

    I live in LA and just love doing beach bonfires at Dockweiler!

    1. millionmilermom

      October 28, 2020 at 3:00 pm

      Nice!! Will need to make a note next time I’m down there.

      1. Jayati

        October 30, 2020 at 7:21 pm

        A perfect list! I never thought of the idea of a self-arranged bonfire by the sea. Your list is sutely going to help in prepping for the same. I totally agree with creating a perfect ambience. That is so essential. And keeping track of kids and setting up the bonfire bit away from water is a practical advice. Nice post.

  • 5suitcasesblog

    October 28, 2020 at 3:52 pm

    What a fun idea! It seems like you’ve thought everything out, especially with the packing list! I’m surprised so many Cali beaches allow bonfires, many places here in Florida don’t allow them due to fire hazards.

    1. millionmilermom

      October 28, 2020 at 6:42 pm

      It is definitely very limited and you have to adhere to other warnings since we are so prone to wildfires here. I am actually surprised they don’t have them in Florida but you guys have gorgeous, pristine beaches!! Ours are a little rocky so you probably don’t notice the charred bits as much!

  • Diane

    October 28, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    This looks like so much fun – I didn’t even know beach bonfires was a thing! (except in the movies)

    1. millionmilermom

      October 28, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      It is limited but such a fun thing to do on a warm summer night!

  • Krista

    October 28, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    I’m in Florida and never thought about doing this! I’m definitely going to look into it!

    1. millionmilermom

      October 28, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      Definitely do! Although your beaches are such nice, soft sand. It would be a pity to ruin it with some fire pits!

  • Nicole

    October 28, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    This is so lovely. Beach bonfires are my favourite. We have one beach nearby that we can do this but then the rest all have sand dunes, n a bit risky.

  • Sarah Arnstein

    October 29, 2020 at 7:30 am

    A beach bonfire sounds so fun! We don’t have many beaches where I live (Montana), so I’ll definitely keep this in mind when we visit areas that do that them!

    1. millionmilermom

      October 29, 2020 at 8:26 am

      Could be fun lakeside but yes, definitely a novelty to doing it oceanside!

  • Nicole Anderson

    October 29, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    Love these tips and ideas for the kids – especially the practical ideas of situating the bonfire away from the water closer to the car and making the kids easy to spot. Great that you also included places in California for this and hopefully the pandemic will be under control soon to open up more options for us all. In the meanwhile, we know the kids will be looking forward to summer and bonfires will always be a fun activity.

    1. millionmilermom

      October 29, 2020 at 8:42 pm

      Let’s hope we’re back to normal soon! Need to get out and explore more 🙂

  • Agnes

    October 30, 2020 at 4:30 am

    Great tips for families with children. I agree that the most important thing is to find a place where bonfires on a beach are allowed. I have witnessed bonfires made in forbidden places several times. It’s good to emphasize how important it is. You provide such useful and great tips on what to pack for such a family trip.

  • Planet Hopper Girl

    October 30, 2020 at 9:33 am

    Beach bonfire sounds so exciting but I have never had one. I would love to plan when I am around a beach 🙂

  • joefuf1

    October 30, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Bonfires on the beach?? Sign me up! Truly living your best life, these are great tips for what’s needed when doing one. I especially appreciate how you listed some beaches where it’s allowed. Very well put together without adding unnecessary information

  • Georgina

    October 30, 2020 at 3:39 pm

    Such a perfectly curated list – you have thought of everything! As my kids are grown up adults now, I do not have to worry about keeping an eye on them but I very much love to create the right ambience for a family night out at the beach with a bonfire. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas.

  • Ramya Pandey

    October 31, 2020 at 1:13 am

    The advice given by you seems nice and practical. Beach bonfire is also a perfect way to bond with kids and teach them responsibility. They can enjoy a place as much as they want but should keep the place clean, before leaving it. I loved the article for its handy tips.

  • Melissa

    October 31, 2020 at 6:23 am

    This sounds like so much fun! I have never tried this before with my daughter, but I think she would love it! I love the idea about covering them in glow in the dark jewelry, they would definitely stand out! I will keep this is mind for our next beach vacation!

  • Aradhana

    November 1, 2020 at 1:44 am

    Sounds like the perfect list to have a camp fire by the beach with kids in tow! I’d agree the little fellow does look like he is living his best life haha! So cute 🙂 Even for our family holidays, my mum ensures we are all well stocked, of course mostly for road trip destinations as airlines can be stingy. Great tips on ending the night and not leaving a trail behind, very much applicable universally!

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