Photograph by Chris Bickford, National Geographic Travel
Marking the end of the day with a roaring beach bonfire is a time-honored Florida coastal tradition. Although a permit is required and strict rules regulate where and when fires can be built, there are places where you legally can enjoy a classic bonfire (and your fill of roasted marshmallows) without hauling any wood.
SeaOats Beach Service, Rosemary Beach
Bring the food, drinks, a couple of dozen friends, and SeaOats Beach Service does the rest. The company specializes in beach party bonfires, but no worries if you’re not traveling with a crowd—the aroma of fire-roasted marshmallows will draw people in. “No small campfire here,” says owner Chris Webb. “We use a large, 40-inch fire pit to ensure tall toasting flames for marshmallows or hot dogs. It’s open sky, stars, the sound of soft surf blended with the crackle of a good fire [and] topped by the scent of salt air.”
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Destin
Beach bonfires at the oceanfront Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort can be built as big or as small as you need. The popular Romantic Beach Bonfire for Two package includes two beach chairs, a bottle of bubbly and flutes, and enough kiln-dried firewood for at least a three-hour bonfire. An attendant sets up and cleans the fire pit and is close by (but not too close) if you need help tending the flames.
What to Bring: No glass is allowed on the beach, so beverages need to be in aluminum, plastic, or paper containers.
Hot Tip: If you do get a permit to build your own fire, leave no trace. Wet down and haul off all ashes and any other fire remains. Specific setup and disposal rules are outlined on the permit application.
Best Bet: Celebrate New Year’s Eve at the annual bonfire on the beach at Lighthouse Park on St. George Island.
Fun Fact: Rosemary Beach and Destin are located on the Gulf of Mexico in Walton County, a prime nesting location (May-October) for loggerhead, green, and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. Strict bonfire setup and cleanup rules (such as never burying wood or charcoal debris in the sand) help protect turtle nests and create a clear pathway to the water for hatchlings.
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