When the sun goes down, Assateague Island National Seashore heats up! Bonfires on the beach are a popular activity for many of the park’s visitors that want to stay past sunset. While each campsite comes equipped with a fire ring, there’s nothing quite like sitting around a fire with friends right next to the ocean. Additionally, anyone visiting can host a beach bonfire on the National Seashore, not just campers! There are a few things you need to know if this is your first time hosting a bonfire on Assateague Island. We’ll give you everything you need to know plus some added tips for a successful evening on the beach.
- Bonfires can be held with no permit necessary in the National Seashore only for groups of 25 or less.
If you’re coming for a day visit and plan on staying to host a bonfire later, note that bonfires on the beach are not permitted in the state park side of Assateague. You will need to drive down to the National Park entrance and pay the entrance fees for this park. If you are coming with a large group of more than 25 people, you will need to obtain a special permit from the National Park Service.
- Buy local firewood.
There are plenty of places to purchase firewood on your way to the island, and bundles are also available on the island through Assateague Outfitters Beach Hut.
If you’re coming from the South or from the Berlin, we recommend taking Assateague Road (MD Rte 376) as there are several places you’ll pass along the way to stop and grab firewood. Three of our personal favorite places to stop are:
Assateague Farm – You will notice the PILES of seasoned firewood that they sell for around $25-$35 per bundle plus a farm stand in the Summer months and a picturesque pumpkin patch during the Fall months. Bonus: Check out the adorable goats located right in the middle of the firewood stand!
Buck’s Place – This is a small convenience store located directly on the right as you turn right onto 611 towards Assateague. You can’t miss the giant crab statue! There’s also a full-service deli inside, a bar with live music on Summer weekends, a bait shop, beach, fishing and camping supplies and plenty of cold drinks for sale here.
Assateague Market – This is the last stop on the right as you head down Route 611 to go over the bridge onto Assateague Island. This is also a great convenience store with excellent hot and cold sandwiches to bring to the beach and some fun Assateague gifts to take with you!
- Set up below the hide tide line.
In order to prevent fires from getting out of control and spreading towards the dunes and campgrounds, fires are only allowed to be set up between the high and low tide lines. Pay attention to the tide charts for the evening, and carry all of your supplies down towards the water’s edge.
- Be sure to properly extinguish your fire and dispose of any remaining firewood.
We recommend always having a large, construction-grade bucket full of water nearby while your fire is burning. When you’re ready to pack up and head home, it’s important that you first completely douse your fire with water until it’s fully extinguished. Simply burying it with sand could cause injury if anyone falls through onto the hot embers.
If your firewood does not burn completely out before you’re ready to leave, you’re asked to completely extinguish the logs and pack them up and take them with you to dispose of them properly. Storms are common on Assateague, and rough surf and high tides can dig up all of those old bonfires which leaves the logs as debris covering the beaches.
- Be prepared for horses.
Yes, the horses come out at night too. While they do tend to sleep during the night, the smell of food can lead them to your bonfire party. Since evening bonfires are a common occurrence on the beach after dark, the smoke from all of the bonfires can become dense making visibility difficult, especially during the humid Summer months. A herd of horses can approach your group quickly, so try to stay alert and be prepared to pack up any food laying out.
- Check the weather.
A perfect night on Assateague is one with low wind and high visibility to the stars above. We’ve seen countless shooting stars and satellites above while hosting our own bonfires or camping for a night. But, let’s be real. Weather along the coast can be unpredictable, so if you’re planning a bonfire with a group in advance, be sure to keep a close eye on the forecast, including the wind. If rain is expected during your bonfire hours, make sure you come with a plan to quickly pack up and leave no trace if the weather takes an unwanted turn.
- Stay Safe.
Beach bonfires are a great way to connect and socialize with family and friends, but it’s important to remember how dangerous they can be. Since the fire is burning below the ground level, it can pose a huge risk to small children running around. Assateague also gets VERY dark at night, so make sure you know where your little ones are at all times if they wander away from the fire.