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A Guide To Planning The Perfect Beach Picnic

Year-round high temperatures, stunning shorelines, and lots of sunlight make tropical destinations the best place for a beach picnic. With a little bit of careful planning and good tips, you could be enjoying a delicious sandwich in one hand and a mimosa in the other in no time!

Planning a beach picnic isn’t as hard as you might think. If you love the simple joy of good food and picture-perfect scenery, then this guide is for you – we’ll take you through everything you need to know about planning a summer beach picnic.

Beach Picnic Ideas

Your first order of business is deciding what kind of beach picnic you want to have. These picnic themes should be on your shortlist:

Romantic Beach Picnic

For nontraditional couples, beach picnics are an excellent alternative to your typical dinner date. Pick a secluded area where you can enjoy uninterrupted one-on-one time. Bring a charcuterie board of your favorite cheese and cold cuts along with battery-operated candles to up the romance. And don’t forget the mood music! 

Pro-tip: If you’re planning a sunset picnic, bring the wine out at least an hour before so you don’t have to rush through your meal.

Family Beach Picnic

A day at the beach is the perfect family getaway. If your family is vacationing in a tropical area, there’s no shortage of family-friendly options to host a picnic. 

Keep younger kids occupied with a seashell hunt, sandcastle building, or frisbee under the sun. Meanwhile, you and your partner can enjoy a pre-packed meal on your family-sized picnic blanket. 

Pro-tip: Planning to take your older family members along? Keep them safe from the heat and well-hydrated! If they need some help moving around, consider bringing beach-friendly mobility aids with seat belts and all-terrain wheels. 

Beach Picnic For One

Sometimes, the perfect beach picnic is a party for one. After all, there’s no need to coordinate schedules or obsess over the little details when you’re picnicking by yourself.

If you’re taking a self-care day, choose a quiet location where you can lay back with a snack, book, and a beer… or a bottle of wine, if that’s your thing. Pack your favorite food, and don’t forget a foldable beach chair! You’ll want to feel as pampered as possible!

Beach Picnic With Friends

There’s nothing like a weekend seaside getaway with your friends! Just make sure everyone has something to contribute to your picnic menu, whether it’s a charcuterie board of cold cuts and cheese, homemade brownies, cookies, cut-up veggies, or cocktails.

If you feel like getting into the competitive spirit, you can host a casual volleyball tournament or play cards.

What To Bring To A Picnic On The Beach

Now that you have a beach picnic theme in mind, it’s time to get packing. Here are a few essentials you should bring when hitting the beach. 

Best Beach Umbrella: Blissun Portable Beach Umbrella

Sometimes, even the toughest sunscreen isn’t enough to protect you from harsh UV rays. With that in mind, packing an umbrella is a must! 

You’ll thank yourself later when you’re relaxing under the shade rather than under the heat of the sun! We recommend the Blissun Portable Beach Umbrella, which provides UV protection and can withstand strong winds. 

  • Made with a sturdy fiberglass frame
  • Heavy-duty sand anchor keeps umbrella upright even in strong winds
  • Fabric provides up to 50+ UV protection

→ Click Here To Get The Best Price On The Blissun Portable Beach Umbrella ← 

Best Beach Tent: YZKJ Beach Sun Shelters PopUp Tent

Bigger families should consider taking a beach tent. These beach accessories are very portable, easy to set up, and provide UV and heat protection. Wind-proof varieties can even keep sand from blowing everywhere. 

If you like having cover per member of the family, consider the YZKJ Beach Sun Shelters PopUp Tent, which doesn’t require any assembly. 

  • Made with anti-UV and waterproof materials 
  • 360-degree windows provide ample ventilation
  • Windproof features prevent sand from entering

→ Click Here To Get The Best Price On The YZKJ Beach Sun Shelters PopUp Tent ← 

Best Sand-Free Beach Blanket: ZOMAKE Picnic Blanket Mat

A beach towel won’t keep sand out of your food. Instead, use a sand-free beach mat like the ZOMAKE Picnic Blanket Mat. This impressive beach accessory is highly durable and made with three layers to prevent sand from sticking. 

  • Water-resistant and fully sand-proof
  • Made with environmentally friendly materials
  • Easy to clean 

→ Click Here To Get The Best Price On The ZOMAKE Picnic Blanket Mat ← 

Best Portable Picnic Table: Stansport Picnic Table And Umbrella

Prefer to eat around a table? Some picnic tables even come with an umbrella slot, perfect for eating and drinking under the shade… and keeping creatures away from your sandwiches! We recommend the Stansport Picnic Table and Umbrella, which are both a durable and attractive addition to your picnic setting. 

  • Provides UV protection
  • Can sustain up to four adults
  • Easy to adjust

→ Click Here To Get The Best Price On The Stansport Picnic Table and Umbrella ← 

Best Picnic Basket: Picnic At Ascot Large Insulated Picnic Basket

What’s a beach picnic without a picnic basket? The best basket for the beach is the Picnic at Ascot Large Insulated Picnic Basket, which is waterproof, insulated, and has a lot of room to store essentials like water bottles, cloth napkins, and silverware. 

  • Made with leak-proof lining
  • Folds flat for easy storage 
  • Ideal for keeping food hot or cold

→ Click Here To Get The Best Price On The Picnic at Ascot Large Insulated Picnic Basket ← 

Best Cooler: Arctic Zone Beach Cooler

For drinks and cold food (like macaroni salad or ice cream), use a cooler. We love the Arctic Zone Beach Cooler, which you can carry as a backpack or use as a rolling cart. It even comes with built-in drink holders and an insulated front compartment!

  • Comes with a waterproof insert
  • Made with leak-proof lining
  • With a detachable bottle opener

→ Click Here To Get The Best Price On The Arctic Zone Beach Cooler ← 

Best Bug Spray: Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent

At the beach, you have to be on the lookout for flies, mosquitoes, sand fleas… the list goes on and on. Don’t worry, it’s nothing the Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent can’t handle! This affordable product repels any kind of insect and offers protection for up to 10 hours. 

  • Sweat-resistant and non-oily
  • Contains 25% DEET
  • Repels bugs that carry Zika and West Nile Virus

→ Click Here To Get The Best Price On The Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent ← 

Best Hand Wipes: Kerrie’s Counter Hand Sanitizer Wipes

It’s pretty inconvenient to rush to the bathroom every time you step out of the ocean or grab a bite of food. This is where hand wipes come in, well, handy! Try the Kerrie’s Counter Hand Sanitizer Wipes – the formula is soothing and moisturizing, leaving your hands feeling hydrated every time.

  • 75% alcohol formula
  • Resealable and compact packaging
  • Comes in packs of 50 wipes

→ Click Here To Get The Best Price On The Kerrie’s Counter Hand Sanitizer Wipes ← 

Beach Games

The best way to round out your day at the beach? With some games! Quintessential beach props include inflatable balls and frisbees, but don’t be scared to get a little creative. 

Why not try your hand at beach limbo, or bring a deck of waterproof cards for seaside poker? You could also set up a scavenger hunt or sandcastle building competition – perfect for keeping the kids entertained while the adults sip on margaritas. 

First Aid Kit

No matter how prepared you are, there’s no way to predict an accident. Between heatstroke, accidentally ingesting sand, or swallowing seawater, there is a lot to look out for at the beach. 

While some cases will call for an emergency trip to the nearest hospital, a first aid kit can solve most if not all minor injuries. A proper first aid kit should include:

  • Bandages
  • Antiseptic solution
  • Medical scissors
  • Pain relievers
  • Tweezers
  • Aloe vera
  • Epi-pen, if anyone has allergies

Pro-tip: Know which injuries or accidents you can confidently handle on your own. For everything else, seek medical attention immediately!

Beach Picnic Food Tips

Beach picnics aren’t complete without food! Check out these tips for the best seaside feast possible. 

Prepare Ahead

Nobody wants to chop, peel, and mix their food at the beach. Curate your menu for easy eating and prepare each meal ahead of time. Some go-to picnic meals include sandwiches, wraps, and fruit bowls because they’re easy to prep and store.

To avoid crushing or leaking food, pack everything into airtight containers instead of plastic bags. Plus, reusable containers are easier to lay out on your picnic table.

Don’t forget to pack lots of water to stay hydrated. You can even freeze your water bottles overnight, doubling as ice packs inside your cooler. 

Other essentials you should throw into your picnic basket are: 

  • Bottle opener
  • Ice cubes for your cooler
  • Reusable shatter-proof plates
  • Napkins

Keep It Simple

For a convenient beach brunch, we always recommend finger food. Not only are these snacks delicious, but they also don’t require utensils or plates. We suggest you snack on things like: 

  • Pita bread and hummus
  • Salad wraps
  • Burgers
  • Cheese plates
  • Chopped fruits and veggies
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Sandwiches

If you’re traveling with kids, taking a tub of ice cream can be tempting, but it’ll melt faster than you can dip your toes in the water. Replace quick-melting foods with snacks like cookies, brownies, and biscuits instead. 

Know What Not To Bring

Sticky hands are inevitable when you’re snacking on chips and dips, but some foods are just too messy to bring to the beach. Avoid food like:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Hard cheese like parmesan, cheddar, or gruyere
  • Ice cream and popsicles
  • Fish or meat

Pro-tip: Keep it light and fresh for a day at the beach! Leave hot or oily food at home. 

How To Have A Responsible Beach Picnic

While different beaches will have different rules and regulations, there is universal beach etiquette that you need to keep in mind while picnicking. Here are some tips for enjoying your seaside feast while doing your part:

Clean Up After Yourself

As the saying goes, leave nothing but footprints when you visit the beach. If there are no recycling bins nearby, make sure you pack some trash bags. Give the area a thorough sweep before heading home. And if you spot someone else’s trash, don’t hesitate to pick it up! 

As a rule, never leave your food unattended. You never know what pesky birds are lurking, waiting to swoop in and steal a bite. Seagulls are messy creatures and can make cleaning up even more challenging!

Research Beach Policies

Unfortunately, not every beach permits alcohol, especially ones that are family-friendly. If you are traveling with kids, mocktails and slushies make excellent substitutes. 

But if your chosen beach is OK with alcoholic beverages, don’t forget to pack bottle openers, corkscrews, and shatter-proof glasses. Bear in mind that twist tops are easier to store than their cork counterparts – unless you plan to consume the entire bottle, of course! If you prefer cocktails, mix them into insulated thermoses to keep them chilled throughout the day.

Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is that not all beaches are dog-friendly. If you plan to take your canine companion on a picnic, find beaches that welcome four-legged guests. Don’t forget to take waste bags and note whether they are required to stay on a leash.

The Bottom Line

Top off your tropical vacation with a picnic on the beach! Whether you’re going solo or with friends, an afternoon under the summer sun isn’t complete without a well-packed picnic basket. 

Keep your picnics simple with easy-to-eat finger food and cold refreshments…and don’t forget to pack the sunscreen. Happy picnicking!


**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Written by Rachel Covello

Rachel Covello is an award-winning speaker, writer, diversity consultant, and LGBT advocate. She is the Founder of LGBT Equality Alliance, a Chester County, PA nonprofit organization, and CEO of OUTCOAST, an online marketing and concierge platform marketing the Gulf Coast as an LGBTQ-inclusive place to VISIT, CELEBRATE, and LIVE.

Rachel is also an avid event photographer and has captured photos for LGBT organizations around the world, including the IGLTA, NGLCC, NLGJA, and Out & Equal.


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