What California Beaches Have Fire Pits

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Feel the Burn: California Beaches with Fire Pits

It’s a California given that any visit to the beach is better when it includes the entire family curling their toes in the warm sand, tasting the salty air and toasting marshmallows over a flaming fire pit. When it's your turn to pack up the kids for some kumbaya around the campfire, these five California beaches are waiting.

Huntington State Beach (21601 Pacific Coast Hwy., Huntington Beach CA) has 200 wood- or charcoal-burning fire pits scattered between its #3 and #15 lifeguard stations. Bringing small kids? Choose a pit close to a unisex restroom along the paved path between the parking area and beach. The beach is wide enough for the biggest sand castles, and the waves break too far from shore to bother young splashers.

Fiesta Island Park (1590 E. Mission Bay Dr., San Diego, CA) in San Diego’s Mission Bay has fire rings all along the road looping the shore. Even your dog is welcome off the leash at the enclosed dog park and beach. If it's summer, stay until 9:45 p.m. for the fireworks show from Sea World just across the water. Port-a-potties replace restrooms, so supply your own toilet paper and water.

Stake out a fire pit just steps from the Pacific with unobstructed bay and San Diego skyline views at Shelter Island Shoreline Park Beach (2210 Shelter Island Dr., San Diego CA). This beach boasts a public fishing pier and boat launch while the park has a paved walkway running along its shoreline, a play area for younger kids, restrooms and picnic tables. Imagine lighting your beach fire inside a flower, starfish or cluster of clamshells.

At Ocean Beach (Fulton St. and Great Hwy, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco CA), you can do just that. Sixteen artist-designed fire pits stretch between Stairwells 15 and 20, leading down from the promenade directly west of Golden Gate Park. The pooch can run free between Stairwell 21 and the north end of the beach.

Future aviators are in their element at Dockweiler State Beach (12001 Vista Del Mar, Playa Del Rey, CA), a 3-mile stretch of sand in the takeoff path of neighboring Los Angeles International Airport. The nearly 60 fire pits are snapped up quickly during the summer and at sunset, so time your arrival accordingly.

Expert traveler's tips: To secure and keep a fire pit between Memorial Day and Labor Day, hit the sand bright and early in the AM. Fill a pit with your fuel and pile your gear around it. Enjoy your beach activities in shifts, so someone's always near the pit.

At many beaches, fire pits are summer-only features. Check with the local beach agency when planning your outing.

Come Prepared

Here's everything you’ll need for a hassle-free beach fire pit experience:

  • For a bonfire: Clean, seasoned hardwood. Nothing painted, chemically treated or studded with nails. No pine, cedar or other softwood that may throw sparks.
  • If you’re grilling: A grate with two wooden supports to set into your fire pit and charcoal to fill the underlying space.  
  • Waterproof matches
  • Paper or kindling to start your fire. Don't use lighter fluid or any accelerant.
  • Long-handled skewers for cooking
  • Oven mitts
  • An ice chest for your food and drinks
  • Disposable cutlery, sealable leftover bags and recycling bags
  • Blankets or beach chairs for sitting around the pit
  • Coverups all around for the post-sundown chill
  • Bottled water to douse your fire, or a bucket to collect seawater for dousing

Play It Safe

Beach bonfires may be magical, but they're also dangerous. Minimize the risks by keeping flammables a safe distance from the perimeter of the pit, so sparks can’t ignite them. Let sandbox-loving kids know the fire pit isn’t one. Help them roast their marshmallows or hot dogs; if a marshmallow starts flaming, tell the cook to let it burn out. Shaking it could release a fireball. Finally, don’t leave the beach without drenching your wood or coals with water until the last embers are extinguished.