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The only thing better than a backyard BBQ with friends and family is a beach BBQ with friends and family.
Depending on where you’re from in the world, you might call it a braai, or a barbi, or a grill. How you define the art of cooking over fire is up to you, but we can all agree that barbecues are a great way to spend an afternoon at the beach.
Parks, backyards, and pools are all great places for a barbecue, however, beaches are on the top of our list. Combine a barbecue with a long day in the sun, sand, and ocean, and I couldn’t be happier!
In this article we’ll discuss what to bring for a beach BBQ. There are a number of essential beach barbecue items that you should bring.
We’ll even remind you of a few overlooked items that people often forget. Let’s get started!
Why People Love Beach BBQs
There’s something about barbecues. Some like working with a powerful fire while others enjoy the creativity of finding the right combination of fire, spice, and oil.
For kids, it’s all about being outside, playing games with family and friends, and enjoying fresh air.
Just saying the word “barbecue” makes the mouth salivate. It’s the most ancient form of cooking that likely dates back to our caveman ancestors and uses a simple technology, fire.
Although cooking shows have turned barbecuing into an art, the concept is simple, so simple that even when we burn the food the hint of charcoal still tastes good.
Growing up, I spent many weekends at the beach with friends and with family. My favorite place to be was in the water or sleeping on the beach, but my best memories were during beach barbecues and bonfires.
>> must read: this year’s best beach gear
Barbecues are always done in groups. Come to think of it I’ve never seen just one person enjoying a BBQ and this is what makes the activity enjoyable. You get to eat, enjoy the weather and the scenery, and laugh amongst family and friends.
My most memorable barbecue was at San Diego’s South Mission Beach with our baseball team. A bunch of college guys and a few girlfriends volunteered to bring food.
We stayed late in the afternoon, telling stories and jokes. Good times had by all!
|Utensils and Other
|Kabobs (veg and meat)
|Veggie and Dip
|Beach Towel and Blankets
|Paper plates and cups
|Chips and Dip
|Garlic and Chili Powder
|Burgers (veggie and meat)
|Beers (check beach rules)
|Metal or plastic knives and forks
|Charcoal or Gas
|Games (Volleyball, Soccer ball, boogieboard)
|Salad (Greek our fav)
|Aluminium Foil (if needed)
|Potato Salad or Grilled Potatoes
Beach BBQ Essentials
Yep, you’ll need a barbecue. It’s the most obvious item on our list because without it you won’t be able to cook. In some instances, you’ll need to bring your own, but in many cases, the beach will have an area designated to group gatherings with barbecue pits.
Check online if the beach you’re going to has BBQ pits, otherwise be prepared to bring your own. In my experience, it’s difficult to bring a large BBQ and it takes up a lot of space in your vehicle. If possible bring a compact BBQ.
If you have a large group it will take a little longer to cook all the food, but people don’t usually mind waiting when they’re having a good time at the beach.
Gas or Charcoal
Some chefs are insistent they use gas or charcoal. For a beach BBQ, where there’s often an ocean breeze, it can be tricky to light charcoal and keep the coals hot.
Gas is easy to transport and should provide a more consistent flame.
If you use charcoal make sure you extinguish the coals before disposing of the in the trashcan. No trashcan fires!
Gas is a bit easier to clean up but you have to take the tank home when you leave.
For your barbecue don’t forget a wire brush to clean the grill before and after cooling. It’s an essential tool for every person barbecuing.
Another essential tool is a spatula and or tongs. You’ll need to flip those burgers and turn those kabobs without burning yourself.
If you forget this item you’ll be trying to turn burgers with sticks and plastic utensils.
Skewer (for kabobs)
An optional piece of equipment is a skewer for kabobs. Meat can be grilled whether you forget a skewer or not, but small vegetable pieces might fall through if not pierced with a skewer.
A cooler or ice chest is essential. Where else will you store all those beers? The beach is usually warm and beer, water, Gatorade, and soda can become hot if left in the sun.
Ice chests range in size, but a standard size (roughly 3 feet long) should hold enough beverages for a group. The cooler is also the preferred place to store meat, veggies, dip, and other food that will spoil in the sun.
We recommend ice chests that have wheels, which are perfect for taking to a beach BBQ.
You’ll also want a few chairs.
The location I use to BBQ at had park benches but not everyone could fit on the bench when eating. Bringing a few extra chairs for people to relax in will help make you and your guests comfortable.
We like chairs that breakdown, are lightweight, and have pockets or drink holders. The best beach chairs even have backpack straps to help you carry them to and from the car.
Baby Beach Tent
If small children will be present, make sure you have some shade for them to rest under. Sure you can use a covered stroller, or stand under a tree, but there are few trees at the beach and little shade in general.
Pop up beach tents are easy to bring to a beach bbq and are a thoughtful gesture to guests that have newborns. They set up in seconds and babies have space to sleep and crawl around.
We recommend the best baby beach tent on another blog article here (check it out!)
People are active at the beach and while the ocean will provide plenty of swimming, your guest will need to be entertained out of the water as well. Playing cards are perfect for a more mature crowd. A volleyball, soccer ball, or football will be preferred by a younger group.
You’ll likely understand the interests of the people you invite. If you have athletic friends be prepared for a lot of activity.
Related: The Best Games For The Beach
Whether or not you go into the ocean is up to you, but wearing swim trunks help in other ways too.
- You’ll be able to tan while at the BBQ
- You’ll likely get sandy and wearing a swimsuit is easy to clean/wash
- Swimsuits are easy to play games in and more comfortable than regular clothes
- If you don’t plan on going in the ocean, but you’re the guy/girl that gets wild after a few drinks!
Towels and Beach Blankets
Towels will be needed for guests that are swimming. It’s a good idea to bring extra in case your guests forget their towels.
Towels can also be used to sit on for eating and relaxing, however, we recommend these big beach blankets for groups of people. The best part about beach blankets is they fit in a small stuff sack and are easy to carry to and from the car.
If you’re having a beach barbecue you might not think to bring binoculars. As we mentioned earlier, you’ll need to keep your guests busy.
Most people will want to swim or play in the sand, but some people may want to do some whale watching from shore.
Most of us have a pair of binoculars lying around the house, If not, check out our review for the best binoculars for the beach.
Similar to binoculars, a kite is an excellent way to have fun at the beach. Given there’s an ocean breeze, flying a kite is fun for kids and adults.
We really like stunt kites – they take some getting used to but once you learn they are so much fun.
Related: Best Stunt Kites For The Beach
Phone (for music and camera)
Gone are the days when people would bring a boom box to the beach. Now you can just use your phone, with or without a speaker.
If your phone has data, you’ll have endless access to the most popular beach playlists, and you’ll have a camera on the phone to take plenty of pictures.
One thing to be aware of is that phones tend to get sand in them at the beach. Using a waterproof case for the beach will keep your phone dry, and sand free.
Food and Drinks
As far as food and drinks, make sure you have a selection for meat eaters and vegetarians. For the grill, burgers, hot dogs, garlic bread, veggie kabobs, and grilled potatoes are a few of my favorites.
Drinks should include a mix of water, fruit juice, soda, and beers, but make sure your beach allows alcohol. In California, many beaches have prohibited the use of use of alcohol on the beach due to rowdy behavior.
You can check the city’s policy regarding booze on the beach.
Chips or veggies and dip should also be an option as an appetizer while fruit salad, Greek salad, and other finger food should accompany food from the grill.
If you’re going all out, home-baked cookies or brownies will leave everyone satisfied and happy after eating.
Don’t forget condiments and seasoning. Everyone needs ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise and cooks will need salt, oil, and pepper while they grill. Optional condiments and seasoning are garlic powder, chili powder, and hot sauces.
Below is a list of potential food items you should consider:
Plates and Utensils
Whatever you do, don’t forget plates, cups, paper towels and utensils for your beach BBQ. Yes, I’ve forgotten these before and things get messy really fast!
If you prefer single-use items then go for paper plates and cups, plastic sporks and knives, however, if you’re environmentally conscious bring silverware from your house (just make sure you don’t lose them at the beach).
Silverware can be easily washed in the ocean after eating or under a beach shower – just don’t wash dishes or plates in the ocean or shower (that’s going too far).
Make sure to bring a roll of paper towels (no need for napkins) and a few extra trash bags. There will likely be trashcans at the beach but having your own bags makes cleaning much easier.
Similarly, if you’re bringing food and towels in old grocery bags you can use those to collect trash after the BBQ.
Headlamp or Flashlight
Depending on the time of day, you may want to bring a headlamp to help with cooking. Most beach BBQs are for lunch, either at noon or mid-afternoon but if you’re planning a day in the sun and an evening barbecue, then you’ll want to make sure you don’t run out of light.
Flashlights are helpful, but they require a hand to hold them. Headlamps are the perfect barbecuing assistant under low light environments. I cooked over charcoal for two years in a village and my headlamp was invaluable (go Peace Corps!).
Headlamps are also useful when barbecuing at home in the backyard, camping, walks at night, and reading in bed!
In this article, we reviewed the keys to creating a successful beach barbecue. You won’t forget to bring the BBQ grill but there’s a chance you’ll forget one of the many essential items like plate ware, napkins, condiments, and games.
All of the items necessary for a beach barbecue won’t take up much space in your car and if needed you can assign items to bring to other guests.
Have the sports guy bring balls and a volleyball net, have the nerd bring binoculars, have a mom bring towels and blankets and a dad bring an ice chest. Before you know it you’ll have people bringing food too!
We hope this article helps in your preparation for a great beach barbecue. The beach is an amazing place to spend time with friends and family.
Most of my best family memories are from the beach and beach barbecues and bonfires. Just make sure you follow the beach rules, are safe with alcohol (many beaches don’t allow alcohol) and dispose of your waste after the event.