Tips for the Best Beach Bonfire
Summer may be more than halfway over, but the weather is as warm as it’s ever been, the water temp is at its peak, and the smoky flair of bonfires are still seen keeping locals and travelers warm on the sand once the sun has set. As bonfire experts ourselves, we’ve accumulated everything you’ll need to know – that is, what to wear, bring, make, hear, and taste to make the most of your Californian beach night experience whether that’s traditional coastal camping or fashionable OC glamping.
Bonfires on Big Corona and Balboa Beach are available 6 a.m. – 10 p.m., and though 6 a.m. may sound a little early, take a local’s advice and get there as soon as you can, especially during the summer months. It’s first-come, first-served and people claim bonfires early in the morning and stay there until late in the evening. When in doubt – make a day of it! Park your stuff at the pits, tan in the sun, hop in the waves, repeat. I know, it’s torture. So, before you plan the most amazing bonfire gathering the county’s ever seen, make sure you procure the most pivotal element – the fire. A side note: fire pits are demarcated for wood-use and charcoal-use only so make sure you know which fuel you’ll be using before you swing by the store.
In order to ensure a good time, the second essential step is to stage your space! Make sure the sand around the fire pit is anything but dull as you set the scene for a long transition from a day of play to a balmy evening under the stars. Whether it’s towels in the sand or foldable canvas camping stools get creative! Nobody likes lounging without any support. Grab those bohemian tapestries from Pier 1 Imports in Newport Coast – thick beach towels or thin bamboo mats, the aesthetic choice is yours. Whatever theme you choose for decor, make sure to bring ALL the blankets, no one’s ever complained about being too cozy. And when the sea breeze picks up and the warm rays are exchanged for moonlight, you’ll want to be able to wrap yourself up like a human burrito no matter how big the fire is. Attire? Simply complete the summer vibe by throwing a sweatshirt over your bathing suit. With a set-up this cozy you may even be tempted to sleep in the sand.
No campfire is complete without some games to keep your company laughing, and when conversation starts to simmer, whip out your fold-up checkers set (you planned for this moment), throw Frisbees along the crashing waves, or play a round of telephone after the age-old classic charades. Grandma would be proud. Can anyone play the guitar? Harmonica? Ukulele? Now’s the time to bring it along and make your own perfect beach soundtrack. If you don’t have a musically gifted one among you, make sure to bring a speaker, a phone with bluetooth, and put on some Jack Johnson for island sounds that resonate on the California coast.
No matter how far along humans progress, we’ll always find community circled around a captivating fire. However, mankind’s palette has become a little more refined and has transitioned from raw harpooned fish to seasoned poke. Pick up a bowl of fresh spicy or sweet poke at Bear Flag and bring the fan-favorite down to the bonfire to share. You can even pretend you caught it yourself. We won’t tell if you don’t. Take along sealable containers of couscous and purchase some cut, cleaned salmon from The Crab Cooker’s fish market or the Dory Fishing Fleet Market to roast the catch of the day over your fire in a grilling basket. Add some lemon, butter, salt and pepper, and you have a five-star meal with your toes in the sand. If you’re craving the traditional bonfires you see in the films and those of your childhood, bring on the hotdogs, relish, and ketchup or do some prep beforehand to nibble on pigs in a blanket.
A bonfire isn’t complete without something sweet, and although s’mores are usually what anyone can ever think of, they are far from holding the dessert spotlight when you’re hosting the night! Apple pie, America’s most beloved dessert next to s’mores, can also be “baked” at your soiree, just invest in a pie sandwich cooker. After that, it’s as simple as making the filling mixture beforehand, which takes less than ten minutes to prepare (here’s an insanely easy recipe), and bringing some slices of white bread and butter down to the beach- voila! You can make mouth-watering cinnamon apple treats and s’mores at your best beachy bonfire of the season (catch up on this blog to read all the different ways to remake the classic s’more). Still feeling fruity? Lightly grill some pineapple or dip strawberries in marshmallow fluff before roasting them over the fire. Add some chocolate drizzle to either and you have desserts that are light, fruity, and give you bragging rights for attempting to be healthy. You truly can have it all.
If all of this sounds like a little too much effort for you, Newport Beach offers restaurants that do all the prep for the busy visitor set on relaxation. The only thing you need to do is focus on how soft the sand feels beneath your feet as you walk to the fire pit that literally has your name on it. Cruise down the scenic PCH to Crystal Cove’s Beachcomber for a campfire package that comes with all the works, awaiting you among original vintage cottages and pristine protected coastline. As this location is popular for its old California glamour and charm, the fire pits here sell out very quickly, so make sure to reserve far enough in advance on their website to take advantage of the different packages, whether that’s strictly s’mores, hot dogs, or kebabs of meat and fresh fruit. All packages come with beach chairs and blankets, but still bring along a speaker if you want some added atmosphere to an already stunning, mother-nature-at-its-best location. Glamping, the perfect way to achieve the aesthetic and outdoor refreshment of camping without breaking a sweat, has a fitting home in Newport Beach.
Although there’s no boozing on the beach, there’s no rules against imbibing beforehand or wandering over to the plethora of beachside bars (the tropical dance-friendly Cabo Cantina, the neighborhood hangout at Class of 47, or the fun-zone centered Balboa Saloon) to enjoy a drink with friends. Even the Beachcomber Cafe has its own Bootlegger Bar for those who want to be buzzing at sea.
Whether you’re set on playing host and creating a magical setting for the perfect evening with sea-salt kissing your skin, or keeping it easy and playing the guest on a beach reminiscent of 1930s charm, the magnificent stretch of coastline in Newport Beach and the complete accommodation of our beach-front restaurants ensure your summer nights to be wonderful, cherished, and above all, memorable.