Beach bonfires aren't exclusive to the coast. No, in the Midwest, we love a great lakefront beach bonfire. If your location is lacking in the beachfront department, building your own backyard bonfire pit is a fast way to make friends. For something even more convenient, portable fire pits - even a mini charcoal grill - will do the trick!
Regardless of whether you're kickin' back along the coast or curled up in the mountains, relaxing after a hot summer day or bundling-up while the snow falls, a bonfire is always a good time. This summer, we're all looking forward to getting outside, and one of our favorite summer activities is building the perfect beach bonfire.
8 Tips for Building the Perfect Beach Bonfire
Step 1: Check Regulations
Before you start preparing for your perfect beach bonfire, check your local fire regulations to see if your beach has any rules to follow; getting fined for violating safety protocol is no way to get started. It's also important to know if your area has high fire danger rating or risk for brush fire because your community may have a temporary ban on outdoor burning - These regulations are for your safety and for the protection of our beautiful ecosystem (including the many wild animals that rely on it).
Examples of City Bonfire Regulations:
Fires should be no bigger than three feet wide or high.
Bonfire hours are between 7am and 11pm.
Stay as far away from buildings, cars and dunes as possible.
Do not use construction or scrapwood, which can contain chemicals, nails and screws.
Do not throw trash like cans or plastic into your bonfire.
Never leave the fire unattended.
Clean up after yourself.
Step 2: Make Room
The perfect beach bonfire has a lot of space. Best practice is to build your beach fire pit 50+ feet from any structure, car, dune, combustable or flammable substance. For obvious reasons, you want to avoid trees, bushes and other foliage but also be sure to check the area for any flammable substances including oil, gasoline and aerosol cans. If you're wondering why a beach bonfire requires so much space, consider the embers that drift from a bonfire. These beautiful glowing specs can cause deadly fires if they float into a nearby tree. So you see, it's best to make room, lots of room, for your perfect beach bonfire!
Step 3. Dig Your Pit!
With your spot staked, the next step in building the perfect beach bonfire is digging a hole. Since your bonfire should be a modest 3x3 feet and 1.5-2ft deep, with the right shovel and bucket, it shouldn't take too long. We recommend tag-teaming the project and having one of your crew dig while the other clears the area and gathers wood.
Digging a hole for your beach bonfire is important because, not only will this help block the wind - which can cause the fire to spread or carry embers - but it also makes for easy dousing when the bonfire fun is done. The bucket you brought with you will come in handy for drowning and smothering your beach bonfire.
Step 4: Gather & Split
The best wood for building the perfect beach bonfire is dry driftwood. Some other great options are Oak, Hickory or Cedar - Cedar is arguably the best smelling bonfire. Oak is a dense wood that will produce a long burn and low smoke. Avoid soft wood like Birchwood, which has good heat value but burns fast and puts off a lot of smoke.
It's best to have a mixture of thick logs and smaller wood or twigs for your beach bonfire. The thick logs are ideal for a long burn that will last well into the night. Smaller pieces of wood and sticks are great for building the structure of your fire, kindling and growing the flame.
If you're not collecting drift wood or chopping your own, you can buy a bundle of wood from most hardware stores and some gas stations. Another great tip for beach bonfire building is creating a stone boarder. Gathering large rocks to place in a circle around your bonfire will help with structure and safety.
Step 5: Build Your Teepee
There are only two suitable structures for the perfect bonfire, the log-cabin or a teepee; We prefer the teepee method. Building your bonfire in a teepee shape helps the flame grow because it allows for airflow between the wood. With a thick log in the middle and smaller pieces leaning together like a three-dimensional triangle (ehem, teepee), you've created a cozy nest for your fire starter.
Tip: Pick a good poking stick for adjusting your teepee after the fire is rolling.
Step 6: Fire Starter
Starting a fire might not be that complicated, but keeping it rolling is another deal. One of our favorite fire starters is dryer lint. Yes, that fluff from your machine that seems to have no purpose has now found new life! Using gasoline or sprays to start your fire is extremely dangerous and not recommended. Fire starter kits are another bonfire item you can easily pick up at your favorite hardware store.
Natural Fire Starters:
Paper Egg Carton
Toilet Paper Rolls
Materials NOT To Burn:
Plastic - Burned plastic releases toxic fumes into the air that are bad for you and the environment.
Magazines - The ink releases toxic fumes when burned.
Accelerants - Flammable liquids are unpredictable and can cause explosions.
Construction wood, scrap wood or particle board - These often contain toxic chemical adhesives and nails or screws.
Garbage - According to the Environmental Protection Agency, burning trash is illegal in many places and releases toxins and a ton of smoke.
Step 7 : Have The Appropriate Snacking Tools
A bonfire isn't really a bonfire without bonfire snacks. Bring your own drinks and snacks, or pack a cooler to share with your bonfire buddies; you can't go wrong with a classic s'more station. If you are prepared to ball out, there are so many recipes that taste better when cooked over a campfire, but you'll want to be ready with the right campfire cooking tools.
Step 8 : Don't Be That Guy - Clean Up
The final step for enjoying a perfect beach bonfire is a good and thorough cleanup. Give your fire time to dwindle and when you're ready to shut it down for the night, start by drowning the fire with water. Using the bucket you brought, carry water from the ocean or lake to cover and mix with the ashes and coal; repeat this drown and mix technique until the entire fire is soaked. Finally, smother the fire pit in sand then feel the ground the make sure it's cool to the touch before leaving your spot.