How to Build a Beach Bonfire on the Outer Banks

For the launch of our new fall fragrance, BEACH BONFIRE, we decided to build a bonfire in Nags Head for the photoshoot. As we started to plan the details of the shoot, we realized that we weren’t really sure how to build a beach bonfire.

Outer Banks beach bonfire

We began researching the proper steps (specific to the Outer Banks) as well as tips and tricks for building a nice fire. Although we were nervous to build our first beach bonfire, we ended up being successful and the photoshoot turned out to be one of our favorites!

So, here is what we learned about building a beach bonfire on the Outer Banks.

Where Can You Have a Beach Bonfire on the Outer Banks?

Not all Outer Banks towns allow beach bonfires and the ones that do allow bonfires do not all have the same rules and regulations. Be sure you know the rules specific to your location on the Outer Banks by checking the beach bonfire rules by town.

There are NO bonfires allowed at any time on the beaches of Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, or Kill Devil Hills. 

Town of Nags Head

This is the town we built our beach bonfire in! Permits are required to build a bonfire on the beach in the Town of Nags Head.

Permits can be acquired on the Nags Head Fire Department website. The fire department’s website is very helpful and user-friendly!

Permits cost $11 and are based on the wind and fire danger levels. Permits are only offered at 5:30 PM the day of if the wind is blowing less than 11.5 mph.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is a part of the National Parks system and oversees beach bonfires in Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, Hatteras, and Ocracoke Island. Each of these locations requires a permit for beach bonfires.

National Park Permits can be downloaded as PDFs and printed for FREE. Bonfires must take place between the dates of November 16th and April 30th during the hours of 6 AM & 10 PM. 

If you use your Beach Fire Permit from Cape Hatteras National Seashore, be sure to:

  1. Print the Beach Fire Permit.
  2. Read the entire permit.
  3. Sign and date the permit.
  4. Keep the permit with you.

Supplies for Hosting a Beach Bonfire

Now that you know where you will host your beach bonfire, you need to know what supplies to carry with you. We recommend bringing:

  1. Firewood: Nothing fancy! We grabbed ours from 711 on the way to the beach! If you’re looking to collect wood outside make sure it’s dry or you’ll just get a lot of smoke and not much fire.  Do not use any scrap wood that may have nails or screws.
  2. Kindling: We collected tumbleweeds to use as kindling which acts as a fire starter. You can also use small sticks, pine cones, dried seaweed, etc. Please do not pull any grass from the dunes, they are integral to protecting our coastline.
  3. Matches: Our extra-long Outer Banks Matches are perfect for lighting the fire without getting too close. 
  4. Bucket and Shovel: You’ll need the bucket and shovel to dig a small ditch to build your fire in and to smother the fire with sand and/or water fully extinguishing it before you leave. 
  5. S’mores Supplies (optional but recommended!): To truly have a beach bonfire we think s’mores should be involved (so much so we included hints of marshmallow in our new BEACH BONFIRE fragrance!). You’ll need graham crackers, chocolate bars, and big marshmallows! While you’re collecting sticks for kindling be sure to set some aside long enough to use for roasting or you can use old metal clothes hangers by straightening them out!  
  6. Container for Trash: Probably the most important part of building and enjoying a beach bonfire is properly respecting the beaches and throwing away any waste before heading back home. The fire must be completely extinguished before walking away and please dispose of any litter you may have.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Build a Beach Bonfire

Now while we must admit, this was our first bonfire, we were successful!

Beach bonfire with the beach bonfire scented mason jar candle from Outer Banks Candle Co.

Here are the steps we took to build a small fire on the beach in Nags Head for our new fall fragrance BEACH BONFIRE.

  1. Get a Fire Permit

    Start by checking the requirements for the permit specific to the town where you are trying to build the fire. These permits require certain weather conditions for safety purposes. Be sure to read your permit carefully and keep it on you at all times when you’re burning the fire. 

  2. Gather Your Supplies

    Once you’ve read and understand the rules and regulations for your location on the Outer Banks, grab all of the supplies you need for making your beach bonfire and tools for entertaining!Arrow eating roasted smores toasted over a beach bonfire on the Outer Banks

  3. Choose a Good Spot on the Beach

    It goes without saying that fire can be dangerous, so when deciding where to build your bonfire you must first check the town’s rules/regulations and carefully consider the position for your fire.

    Wind direction, high tide line, and vegetation line are all important to consider when placing your fire.

    Do not ever leave your burning fire unattended regardless of location. Open area on the beach ideal for a beach bonfire because it is away from the dunes and water

  4. Dig a Hole and Add Firewood

    Once you’ve selected a good, safe spot for your bonfire, you’ll want to start building by digging a shallow hole large enough for your firewood. Add the fire starter (kindling) and the wood to the hole.
    Hole in the 3 with 5 logs for a beach bonfire

  5. Light the Kindling

    Use your extra-long Outer Banks Matches to light the kindling and watch your fire come to life! Lighting a beach bonfire with matchbox

  6. Extinguish and Clean up

    After you’ve had fun eating s’mores, chasing ghost crabs, and admiring the night sky it’s time to extinguish your fire. Smother the fire with sand and/or water until you are certain all flames are out.

    Clean up any trash you have and dispose of it properly. Nothing can be left on the beach overnight so be sure to also take with you any chairs or beach equipment even if you’re staying on an oceanfront property. Extinguishing a beach bonfire on the Outer Banks protects the coastal environment

Outer Banks Beach Bonfire Safety

Any time you are creating and maintaining fire there is a level of safety that has to be adhered to. Beach Bonfires have a special set of rules due to their location and size.

While we’ve already stated these important safety rules, we feel it important to remind you again. Please be mindful while building and enjoying your bonfire. 

  • All bonfires should be less than 3 feet in diameter. 
  • The fire must be built away from any vegetation. 
  • The fire must be built below the high tide line. 
  • Never leave your bonfire unattended.
  • Extinguish your fire when you are done.
  • Properly dispose of any trash. 

We hope that you found this information useful for building a beach bonfire on the Outer Banks! Being able to enjoy the beach at night is an entirely different experience than the daytime hustle and bustle. 

A beach bonfire is a unique experience that we are sure will become a favorite memory of everyone involved (especially if s’mores are involved!) Once you’ve successfully built your bonfire, don’t forget to come back here and celebrate by purchasing an Outer Banks Beach Bonfire candle! 

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