The Ultimate Guide to Beach Bonfires on the Outer Banks

Imagine the perfect evening on the Outer Banks: the sound of waves crashing, a canopy of stars overhead, and the warm glow of a bonfire lighting up smiling faces. Beach bonfires are a cherished tradition in this stunning stretch of coastline, offering a unique way to enjoy its natural beauty after dark.

Whether it’s a romantic evening for two, a lively gathering of friends, or a memorable family night out, a beach bonfire under the Outer Banks sky is an experience you won’t forget. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to make your beach bonfire adventure as magical as the setting.

Where Can You Have a Beach Fire On the Outer Banks?

Beach bonfires are allowed in certain areas of the Outer Banks, with specific regulations to follow:

Hatteras Island

  • Permits Required: Starting May 1, 2012, beach fire permits are required on Hatteras Island but are free of charge.
  • Where and When: From May 1 to November 15, beach fires are permitted only on the ocean beaches at designated areas to protect nesting sea turtles. From November 16 to April 30, fires are allowed throughout the park, from 6 am to 10 pm.
  • Permit Details: The permit must be signed and in possession at the time and location of the fire. Fires must not be greater than 3 feet in diameter, ignited seaward of the ocean dune, below the high tide mark, at least 50 feet from any vegetation, and cannot be left unattended.
  • Obtaining Permits: Permits can be downloaded, signed, and carried with you or obtained in person at any seashore ORV permit office, campground, or visitor center.

Nags Head

  • Permit Required: Beach pit fires are allowed with a permit from the Town’s Fire and Rescue Department.
  • Conditions for Permit: Issued based on current wind speed and fire danger conditions between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., valid until midnight. Wind speed must not exceed 11.5 mph.
  • Online Permitting System: Available after 5 p.m. daily if conditions are favorable, with a $10 permit fee plus a $1 credit card fee.
  • Permit Purchase Locations: Permits can also be purchased from Nags Head Fire Department stations.

Bonfires are never allowed in Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, or Kill Devil Hills. When planning a bonfire, always confirm the current regulations and conditions, as these can change.

Building Your Beach Fire

Building a beach fire might seem daunting, but with the right preparation, it’s a breeze. Start by choosing a spot below the high tide line and at least 50 feet from vegetation.

Dig a pit and surround it with rocks if available. For the fire structure, the teepee or log cabin styles are effective: start with kindling and gradually add larger pieces of wood, leaving enough space for oxygen to fuel the flames.

Firewood and Supplies

You might wonder where to find firewood on the Outer Banks. Local grocery stores, hardware stores, and convenience stores, especially on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, sell firewood bundles perfect for beach bonfires. Remember, transporting firewood from home is also an option, but make sure it’s dry and suitable for burning.

Cooking Over the Fire

Move over, s’mores—there’s more to beach fire cooking than just chocolate and marshmallows. Consider wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil and burying them in the coals, grilling skewers of meat or veggies, or even cooking fresh fish caught that day. Remember to bring appropriate cooking equipment like grates or skewers, and always monitor food for safe cooking temperatures.

Beach Safety and Etiquette

Ensuring your bonfire is safe and respectful of the environment is paramount. Always keep a bucket of water or sand nearby to extinguish flames. Before leaving, make sure the fire is completely out—”cold to the touch”—and fill in any holes to prevent accidents. Leaving the beach as you found it is not just courteous; it’s crucial for the preservation of these beautiful spaces.


A beach bonfire on the Outer Banks is more than just a fire; it’s an opportunity to connect with nature, with loved ones, and with the timeless traditions of the coast. By following these guidelines, you ensure that this cherished practice continues safely and joyously for generations to come. So gather your wood, grab your permit, and get ready to create unforgettable memories under the stars.