South Florida in the spring can be summed up in two words: music festivals. Whether it’s the booming bass of Ultra Music Festival in Downtown Miami or Electric Daisy Carnival in Orlando, you can find me on the beach at Tortuga Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale.
As one of the best country music festivals around, Tortuga is more than just the music. They work together with Rock The Ocean Foundation to increase public awareness about the world’s oceans! There has been more than $1,000,000 raised from the three day festival and it is given to support scientific research, education, and ocean conservation initiatives.
Fun Fact: In the center of the festival’s layout is the Conservation Village, essentially a ton of educational booths about animals and the ocean, is one special part where you can plant sea oats. Sea oats are important to hold soil and sand in place during extreme weather and they also provide nesting locations for turtles!
This will be my fourth year going, so I know a few things about what to do for Tortuga. Are you going? Let me know and read below!
Hotel: Unless you live in Fort Lauderdale, you are better off getting a hotel for the weekend. My first year, my friend Rachel and I drove up and down from Fort Lauderdale and Miami thinking, “how hard can it be?” Update: it was very hard. The festival ends super late, you’re exhausted from the sun, and then to wake up again in the morning, make the drive and do it all over again. My advice: Get a hotel around the area. The more expensive ones are right by the entrance, obviously, but if you get one that’s a 10-15-minute walk, you’ll see the prices drastically drop. A 15-minute walk is much better than an hour drive, trust!
Clothes: It’s hot. You’re on the beach. Bring beach clothes. You’ll see people in shorts and bathing suits all day long. No need for cowboy boots either, you’re literally on the sand the whole time. Come comfy and cute, you’ll be taking pictures the whole time. No need to cake on makeup either, it’ll be hot and sweaty and everyone is more concerned about having a good time anyway.
Music: The music acts at Tortuga are split between two main stages that are on opposite ends of the area, and a few smaller stages scattered around. Before you plan out your day, look at the schedule of artists and decide if you don’t mind going back and forth between stages or if you want to stay at one all day long; if you stay at one all day long, you have a much greater chance at going to the front of the audience and making eye contact with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Maren Morris.
Other Things to Do: Although it is a music festival, there is actually so much to do if you’re not into either act that’s playing. Each year, Tortuga puts more and more murals, signs, and photo opportunities that could take up a chunk of your time if you’re wandering around. You could explore the food options, the Conservation Village, and my favorite, the Malibu Rum House. It’s right in the middle of both stages and once you’re in (21+), they have their own DJ, inflatables, and games to play. Last year, if you won certain games, you would get a free drink! It’s always my favorite spot to go to every day.
Food: You are allowed to bring snacks into Tortuga, but honestly the food is super good! While the festival and stage is on the sand, what is normally a parking lot for the beach turns into a haven for food trucks during the festival. I should try to pick different things, but I keep going back to the lobster mac and cheese. You’ll find me there this year too. As for food outside the festival, you could enjoy the restaurants around. If you're like me and you're trying to save some money/time, I just buy food beforehand and take it with me to the hotel. I've survived off of Hot Pockets and Mac and cheese for three whole days, and I've lived to tell the tale.
Entrance: For some reason, the entrances to Tortuga are a little tricky. The general admission entrance is closer to the bars on the beach; if you are looking for directions, look up the Elbo Room (241 S Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.). If you’re looking for VIP, it will be by B Ocean Resort (1140 Seabreeze Blvd.) Honestly, just follow the crowd of people wearing your wristband.
Transportation: There is parking around the area, but good luck. There are water taxis that take you to other parking lots. Ubers will raise their rates because, obviously. If you’re coming from Miami or West Palm Beach, Brightline is offering later train rides if you are going back and forth.
How to prepare: Don’t put on your wristband until Friday! It locks once you put it on. (When you try to get it off and you don’t want to break the fabric, use plyers to break the plastic instead of scissors). Also, don’t forget to register your wristband before you walk in otherwise you will not pass security. Finally, download the Tortuga app! They’ll send out the best push notifications before, during, and after the festival to keep you in the loop.
Attitude: This is one of the most laid back festivals you will ever go to. People are singing along, drinking their beers, laying on their blankets or chairs. Everyone is incredibly nice, just trying to have a good time. Careful walking around the sand and accidentally getting it on other people!
After hours: Tons of bars turn country because of this festival so you have a plethora of places to go after hours of being under the sun. You can go to Las Olas, which will be packed, or stay at one of the bars on the beach. I have a soft spot for Blondie's because it's a really narrow arcade game bar, so you might see me there afterwards.
Story time – My first year going was 2016, Dierks Bentley headlined on Friday night and Old Dominion* was right before them. I’m all excited, Rachel and I are driving up to Fort Lauderdale to find a giant thunderstorm. This storm was so bad, they really evacuated everyone from Tortuga. Since we had spent so long driving up, we decided to get ice cream somewhere to waste time. It was about 9:00 PM and, although the storm cleared up, we didn’t know if it was good enough to go home. Right as we were about to turn the car around, our phones lit up at the same time saying something like, “Come back! Gates are open for Dierks Bentley starting at 9:45 PM.” They didn’t even check wristbands; everyone was happy to flood the gates. Then Dierks Bentley shotgunned some beers with people in the audience and it was the beginning of our beautiful relationship with Tortuga Music Festival.
** Old Dominion has actually been invited to Tortuga three times but successfully only played once. Their first year, Tortuga accidentally had them playing before gates even opened; that’s how not-so-known they were. Their second year (story above), they got rained out and ended up playing at a random hotel lobby for the sake of playing music. Their third year, 2017, they finally got to play and for sure, I cried.
I talk about Tortuga all year long because this is my favorite weekend ever! If you actually do have any questions or fun stories of your own, comment below or DM me. I’d love to hear them and see you on the beach soon!
For more questions on what to bring and what not to bring, click here.
1100 Seabreeze Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316