Whether you’re planning a long day at the beach and need sustenance or have a dedicated beach picnic in mind, beach picnics take some planning.
There is nothing better than a picnic on the beach, whether a romantic sunset picnic or a friends and family picnic day by the sea. However, the beach comes with particular environmental nuances that can make picnicking tricky.
Bringing sun, wind, sand, and food together can be challenging unless you put in a little prior thought and planning.
Without having to overdo it, a few simple picnic tips and a couple of handy beach picnic accessories will go a long way to prevent your beach picnic from becoming a hot, sandy mess.
These beach picnic idea and tips will ensure your alfresco beach dates are picnic-perfect every time.
Essential Beach Picnic Gear
Without sounding like you have to invest in a whole new picnic setup, there are some bits of picnic kit that will help create beautiful and stress-free beach picnics. Some will already be part of your beach-going essentials.
Don’t let flies ruin your beach picnic. See our natural solutions to keeping flies away from your picnic.
These are some of the key picnic essentials considerations.
Choose the Right Picnic Basket
Pack a Quality Picnic Blanket
Shade & Wind Protection
No matter where you choose to picnic, shade is always a welcome addition to your picnic setting. It’s not just about sun protection at the beach, but a good shade helps to keep both you and your food cool.
While the sun is one of the big environmental challenges at the beach, so is wind. No one wants to be chasing their picnic bits and pieces down the beach or end up with a face full of sand while trying to enjoy lunch.
A shade tent or umbrella may also deter pesky seagulls from swooping in on your feast.
Depending on your picnic-style, there are many portable options, from the humble beach umbrella and simple roll-up windscreens to portable canopy shades and multipurpose wind and shade tents. Each will hold you in good stead for beach days or even picnics in the park.
Whichever solution you choose, opt for one that comes with a carry bag with a shoulder strap for portability. If you don’t have an umbrella with a sand screw, pick up a separate umbrella sand anchor – they’re an inexpensive and handy beach addition.
How to Pack Your Picnic
Unless you are having a picnic in winter, one of the biggest considerations of packing for a beach picnic is keeping food and drinks cool and preventing food from getting squished or soggy. We have solutions for all these picnic quandries.
Keep Everything Cold
Pack Plenty of (Frozen) Water
Staying hydrated on the beach is essential – Make dual use of those water bottles by freezing them in advance and using them as ice bricks in your coolers or insulated bags. You will also have ice-cold water all day as they melt.
If it is not so hot, freeze half-filled bottles and top up with fresh water before leaving.
Napkins, Hand Wipes, and Dish Towels
Clean dishtowels make a great alternative to cloth napkins and an even better alternative to paper napkins. Use them to wrap items in your picnic kit to keep them cool or from moving around. They are great for spills and sticky fingers and also to cover food to keep sand and flies at bay.
If you want a nice beachy look, a set of Turkish cotton hand towels make a great beach picnic addition because they are extra large and make a great lap napkin for balancing plates and are easy to wash if used for spills or clean up.
Always have a packet of wet wipes in your picnic kit no matter where you plan to throw the blanket down. Sometimes sticky fingers, especially mixed with sand, need a good wet wipe. There’s also plenty of environmentally sound wipes on the market these days.
Pack Food for Minimal Fuss
Our recommendation for beach food is all about keeping it simple (more on this soon), but whatever picnic fare you do decide on, make sure you pack your food for minimal fuss at the other end. If you have dishes that aren’t easily eaten by hand – sandwiches or finger food such as charcuterie boards, try to pack in individual serve containers for easy serving or in leak-proof containers that can double as serving dishes.
Bento boxes are perfect for this. They come in all shapes and sizes, so you can go individual serve or serving dish size. Some come with cutlery sets; some are insulated for hot dishes, and some, like this premium bento box, have a handy chopping board lid that could double as a serving plate, cutlery and sauce container.
Try to steer away from food in ziplock bags or dishes covered in foil or cling wrap. While this might be ok for a picnic in the park, it’s not always conducive to sand and wind conditions. Solid, sealable containers will also stop food from getting squashed or leaking in your basket.
Beach Picnic Food Tips & Ideas
Opt for Easy to Eat Dishes
Finger food or dishes easily eaten by hand are always going to be best for a beach picnic. The less gear you have to coordinate on the sand, the better and balancing a plate on your lap is not always ideal on the beach. We’ve got loads of great picnic finger food recipes here.
Also, consider how your chosen food will travel and keep, especially in the heat. Things like sandwiches, mini frittatas, savoury tarts, stuffed mushrooms, snack platters with salsa’s and dips, cheeses, bread and veggies always work well.
If you decide to go with salads, try to aim for make-ahead salads that can last the distance without ending up sad and soggy.
Pack Portable Desserts
Every picnic should have a sweet treat at the end but choose wisely when it comes to dessert. You don’t want to run with delicate desserts that will be messy or hard to handle. You also don’t want desserts that will melt or fall apart on a warm day.
Stick With Pre Prepared Food
The last thing you want to be doing at the beach is putting together your dishes. Pre-make sandwiches and salads (leaving the dressing off). Cut cheeses, fruits and vegetables.
Use your bento boxes or leak-proof containers to consolidate dishes into ready to serve or in a way they can be easily transported to serving boards – Chopping boards are good for this. They also provide a sturdy surface. Segmented bento boxes are great for serving an assortment of dips and cheeses without any fuss.
Opt for foods that don’t require any prep such as whole fruits – grapes, strawberries, apples etc. Baguettes or flat breads that can be torn by hand.
Foods to Avoid on the Beach
It should go without saying, avoid any foods that could likely go bad in the heat. Food like sushi or fish such as smoked salmon is not ideal, nor are creamy salads or desserts. Try to avoid meat unless you are having a bbq, then make sure you keep the meat well cooled until time to cook.
Some cheeses will go oily in the sun, whereas soft cheeses will melt, which can be a good thing so long as it is not left too long in the heat. Try to avoid mayonnaise on salads or sandwiches.
Keep Your Food Cool
No matter what food you bring, always make sure you leave it in the cooler until you are ready to eat and place it back in if you are having a break from eating.
Create a Food Space
Other than sand in your food, uneven ground is another beach issue when laying out your picnic spread.
In addition to your blanket, a table cloth is always a great idea to create a “food space”. It gives you space to relax on your blanket (or beach chair) while marking out a clear food area to try to keep sand from your food or accidental spills.
A roll-up straw beach mat is also a good way to create a food area on your blanket and provides a slightly more stable surface for your food.
If you really want to get fancy, we can highly recommend an ultra-lightweight foldable picnic table. Perfect for the beach, it folds down super small into its own bag and is sturdy enough for cutting on.
You Might Also Like: We’ve rounded up 11 of the best folding picnic tables from lightweight tables for 2 to large folding picnic tables for groups. Or, for something more beachy, check our top picks for low boho picnic tables – perfectly stable for the beach and oh so pretty.
Seagulls – Don’t Leave Food Unattended
Even a seemingly innocent bag of crisps or plate of cookies can be a magnet for seagulls who can make a huge mess of your beautiful picnic setting. So even if you’re only taking a quick dip in the sea, make sure all your food is tucked away first.
Alcohol on the Beach
If you plan to pack a few icy beers with your picnic or a bottle of wine, check if alcohol is allowed on the beach where you plan to picnic. You don’t want a fine ruining your day.
If alcohol is allowed, don’t forget the essentials, such as a bottle opener & wine glasses. We recommend either plastic tumblers or insulated tumblers for the beach – They are more stable, and there is no risk of broken glass. You can even get fancy insulated champagne tumblers for those who enjoy some bubbles on the beach.
If you do drink on the beach, remember to also drink plenty of water and have good shade available.
Pack Your Wagon
If you have a large picnic kit or are catering to a crowd, you may want to consider a beach-going wagon to carry all your stuff.
There are a few options from granny-style trollies with beach wheels, foldable beach carts designed to carry everything, including your beach chairs or a trusty all-terrain foldable wagon. If you are a picnic or beach enthusiast, any of these options will be welcome additions.
Clean Up After Yourself
Pack some garbage bags and make sure you dispose of all your rubbish including any leftover food stuffs. Also make sure you don’t have any fly away plastic bags or picnic gear while you are at the beach. Your picnic area and the beach should look as though you were never there when you leave.