It's been a couple of years now that I have been wanting to have a beach bonfire. I grew up in Northern Michigan, where bonfires were done regularly and it's one of my favorite memories from childhood. I loved everyone gathering around the bonfire on a chilly evening, where we would chat, laugh, and roast marshmallows. We still do it today at campsites, but it's not like when I was a kid and we had a bonfire pit right in the yard (that I actually dug and lined with rocks myself). This year, I was determined to finally pull it off, and my husband was on board to help make it happen.
We had a beach bonfire in New Smyrna Beach. Two days prior to the bonfire we set record high temperatures in the area. The night of the bonfire, however, temperatures had really dropped and it was chilly to begin with. As the night went on it got pretty cold! Despite it getting quite cold in the last hour, we still had a great time at our beach bonfire. It was great to sit around the fire and hear the roar of the ocean. Even though it's dark outside you can still see the waves some, too.
Volusia County has six firerings on the beach that are available for public use. You have to have pre-approval from the county in order to have the bonfire, but the process to set that up was simple. You choose which firering you want to have it at, fill out the bonfire application and submit it, and then see if that date gets approved. If someone else has it reserved then, you may have to pick a different location or date. The county will approve your application and send you back the permit, which you need to have with you when you have the bonfire.
We chose to have the bonfire at Esther Street Park in New Smyrna Beach. I chose this spot because it has a restroom (take a flashlight for navigating to the restroom). I wanted to make sure that we had access to a restroom, rather than a port-a-potty. This is a nice little park, too, which offers a children's playground, sand volleyball court, and picnic tables. Arriving after 5 pm, you don't have to pay for any type of parking either.
I made the bonefire reservation about a month prior to the date, and invited a few friends to join us, asking that everyone bring a snack to share. I also made a s'mores tray, so that we could make s'mores and roast marshmallows. I also made a big canister of hot chocolate, and brought a cooler filled with drinks (e.g., flavored water, soda, juices). I set up a small folding table and everyone put their snacks on there. I used paper cups, so that they could be burned when we were done. The table of treats made it easy for everyone to help themselves to whatever they wanted. We also took a football and soccer ball, because we knew the kids would want to play, and they did.
If you have a beach bonfire you also need to take your own wood. We purchased bundles of wood from Publix, buying more than we needed and assuming we would take back what we didn't use. We did end up returning some that we didn't use that night. The bonfire ring is quite deep, so you have to put a lot of wood in at once to get the fire built up. I think it needs to be that deep though, or the winds at the beach would put it out.
As long as it is not turtle nesting season, you can also choose to take your own bonfire pit to the beach, and you don't need a permit for that (although you do have to adhere to the rules). You can only have bonfires on the beach from November through April, which is when it's not turtle nesting season.
Having a beach bonfire is a great way to just have some fun or even hold a birthday party. It's inexpensive, relaxing, and bonfires are always great gathering places.
Two thumbs up for having a beach bonfire in Volusia County!
- Jacqueline Bodnar
You can get all the information and rules about having a bonfire in Volusia County here.