It's a perfect evening on Cape Cod. The stars are twinkling, the waves are lapping at the shore, and you're all set to pile up some wood for your beach campfire ...
Hang on just a second!
Before you strike that match, there are a few things you need to know about building a campfire on the beach on Cape Cod.
There are only a few places where it's legal to have a private beach fire. And where it's allowed, you must have a permit.
Read on, for locations, permit information, and insiders tips for planning your campfire on the beach ...
During the early evening, small private fires are allowed on six Atlantic Ocean beaches on the Cape Cod National Seashore:
National Seashore Fire Permits: Before you think about creating even the tiniest blaze, be sure you have a permit!
The Cape Cod National Seashore issues fire permits free of charge, but only a very limited number of them.
Since demand often exceeds the daily supply, it's best to reserve your permit 3 days in advance. (For example: Reserve on Sunday for a campfire on Wednesday, reserve on Monday for a fire on Thursday, etc.)
The National Park Service's policy is to take permit reservations from people who are physically present at the visitor center each morning, before phone reservations are accepted.
Permits must be picked up the day of the fire, before 3:30 p.m., at the Visitor Center where your reservation was made.
Insider's Tip: The easiest beaches to access while carrying a load of firewood and all your other campfire paraphernalia are Coast Guard in Eastham and Race Point in Provincetown.
Only a few towns allow campfires on their public and private beaches ... with the required permit, of course.
Barnstable: Evening camp fires are allowed on the Sandy Neck ORV beach after 7PM, but only when wind/weather conditions allow. Call the Gate House at Sandy Neck at (508) 362-8300 for more info.
Wellfleet: Campfires are allowed on ocean beaches only, after 6:30 p.m. Permits are issued at the Town of Wellfleet Beach Sticker Office, located at the Wellfleet Town Pier. Call (508) 349-9818 for more info.
Truro: Fires are allowed on many of Truro's beaches, but the number of permits available for each beach is limited. They're issued at the Town of Truro Beach Office at 36 Shore Road (Rt.6A) in N. Truro. Call (508) 487-6983 for more info.
In addition to a big bag of fresh marshmallows and some long pointy sticks for roasting tools - required items, IMHO! - there are a few other things you'll want to take with you when you head off to the beach.
Fire Wood: You can buy small bundles of wood at most grocery stores and convenience marts.
Please, buy it. Don't try collecting your own. You don't want to risk running afoul of local laws and ordinances that prohibit taking wood from Mother Nature. And unlike the wood you find in the wild, the firewood you buy is already bundled, it's not damp, and it's not "buggy". Seriously - buy some!
A Flashlight: It gets dark out there. Even if it's light when you arrive, you'll want to find your way back to your car without tripping over anything.
Bring a flashlight with fully-charged batteries. You can pick up a cheap flashlight and batteries at one of the local Christmas Tree Shops (they have everything under the sun, not just Christmas-related stuff!) or at a local hardware store.
Insect Repellent: Yes, as the sun sets, little flying critters do come out. Especially on nights where there's no breeze blowing, or when the breeze is coming off the land. It's wise to have some bug repellent handy, just in case.
Fishing Gear: Okay, this isn't for everyone, I know. But if you love fishing, bring your gear. The hours just before and just after dusk are prime surf fishing time for Striped Bass and Bluefish!
Warm Clothes: It gets chilly on our beaches after the sun goes down. Don't forget your "warmies"!
And last but not least, when your evening comes to an end, please be sure your fire is fully extinguished, and take your trash with you for proper disposal.
Let's all do our share to keep Cape Cod's beaches pristine!