There’s no better way to end a fun day at the beach than to circle up around a cozy bonfire. Not all California beaches allow bonfires, but here in the Marina del Rey area, we’re lucky that Dockweiler State Beach does permit regulated burns in provided fire rings. Follow these tips to ensure your group has an enjoyable time.
Tips for bonfires at Dockweiler State Beach
#1: If you want a pit, arrive early. From May through September, the pits are in high demand, especially on the weekends, and there are some diehards who arrive at dawn to claim their spots for the entire day. You cannot reserve fire pits as you would a campsite. Do not leave your pit unattended, even for a quick dip in the ocean – if you do, don’t be surprised to find another group has taken over the site. There are about 60 pits located just north and south of where Vista del Mar intersects with Imperial Highway. That sounds like a lot, but consider that Dockweiler is also home to an RV park, and you’re all competing for space.
#2: Bring everything you need – wood, smores, snacks, etcetera (see Your Packing List below). Perry’s Beach Rentals concessionaire sells wood and other supplies, but pricewise you are better off bringing your own gear. Located next to the fire pits in the first Dockweiler parking near 8255 Vista del Mar, Perry’s is open only on weekends from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Labor Day through Memorial Day (occasionally into early fall, depending on weather).
#3: The beach and all amenities close at midnight.
#4: Before you leave, snuff out the flame with water. Stir the embers after they are covered with water and make sure that everything is saturated. Do not use sand to distinguish the fire, as it creates a mess for the next guest.
Parking at Dockweiler State Beach runs between $6 (weekday, low season) and $13 (weekend, high season) and there are no in/outs. If you leave the lot, you must pay again to enter. The first 300 cars to arrive during weekdays pay a reduced rate of $3. There is limited street parking on Vista del Mar, but take note of the parking signage. Click for an interactive parking map with fees and times.
Your Packing List
* Wood and charcoal (wood for that nice bonfire and charcoal for cooking – see below about barbecue rules). Both can be purchased at Ralph’s grocery stores: 4700 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey; 8701 Lincoln Blvd., Playa del Rey. Only burn clean wood (nothing treated with paint, chemicals, etc.) in the pits.
* Firestarter and matches or a lighter of some sort. You can purchase kindling from most any grocery, hardware, or sporting-goods store. Or, prepare your own starter with this old-school camping craft: Fill a cardboard egg carton with dryer lint, wood shavings, paper shreds, or other ignitable materials. Pour a small amount of melted candle wax into each cup to make things stay put. Break off cups individually and place into your wood stack. Light the cardboard cups and watch how easy your fire takes off – even in the wind.
* If barbecuing, note that large stand-up barbeques are NOT allowed at Dockweiler on the sand or in the parking lots. However, you can bring a low-profile version and place it inside the fire ring. Or, use the pit to create a makeshift grill: Bring your home barbecue’s grilling grate and position it in the pit with the sides supported by two large pieces of wood. Place charcoal in the open space beneath, and fire it up just as you would at home.
* Camping coffee pot and a gallon of drinking water for hot chocolate, instant coffee, or tea.
* Long-handle grilling sticks. These are great for cooking hot dogs and kabobs and roasting marshmallows.
* Hot glove or mitt. Don’t ruin your night with a burn from handling hot wood, pots, or grills. Items like the Ove Glove offer protection while still allowing dexterity.
* Food! Doubt you’ll forget this, but you may want a separate checklist so that you remember all the elements for your meal. It’s easy to overlook things like serving spoons, plastic utensils, salt and pepper, napkins or wet wipes, and ziplock bags (for leftovers). Paper plates are great for cookouts since they’re ok to burn in the fire afterward.
* You’ll want a beverage cooler with ice, especially if you heed our warning and arrive early in the day to claim your spot. A bag to hold discarded recyclables is a good idea, too.
* Comfort items. Ask each person in your group to bring his or her own beach chair or picnic blanket. Remind them that despite warm daytime temps, the beach cools down a lot at night; having extra blankets and jackets is a smart move.
* Camp/beach table. Depending on the size of your group, you may prefer to set up your dinner fixings buffet style on a simple folding table. Whatever you bring, remember that you’ll need to carry it across the sand to the pit and back to the parking lot at the end of your evening. So only take what you really need.