Santa Rosa Island

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Santa Rosa Island, looking east.

Santa Rosa Island is a 40-mile barrier island on which the communities of Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach, and Okaloosa Island are located. It shields the mainland from the Gulf of Mexico. On its northern lee side are Pensacola Bay to the west and Choctawhatchee Bay to the east, connected by Santa Rosa Sound. Parts of the island are in the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

The Gulf of Mexico The shining light in the back is from the sun's light being reflected on the white sand.


See also: Ownership of Pensacola Beach

Santa Rosa Island was inhabited by Native Americans as early as 2,000 years ago (contemporary with the Deptford culture at Hawkshaw).

The island was settled by Spain on November 25, 1722. This colony, Presidio Isla de Santa Rosa, was battered by a hurricane in 1741 and again in 1754, forcing the settlers to relocate to the mainland. The remnants on the island were wiped out by a 1762 hurricane.

On October 9, 1861, it was the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa Island.

In 1927, Santa Rosa Island was sold by the U.S. War Department for $10,048.75 to Escambia County, Florida. After the completion of a two-year purchase plan, the deed was delivered to the county on April 19, 1929. An agreement with developers Johnson, Drake and Piper led to the construction of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, the Santa Rosa Sound Bridge, and the Casino ballroom and recreational center, which opened concurrently in 1931.

In 1939, ten years after buying the island, Escambia County used a revert clause to return the island to the federal government in the expectation that it would be developed into a U.S. National Monument preserving the remnants of Fort Pickens, the only fort in the South to be held by the Union throughout the duration of the Civil War. The island was re-conveyed to Escambia County in 1946.

The Santa Rosa Island Authority was created by the Florida legislature (Chapter 24500) in 1947 to administer Pensacola Beach.

The island's sugar white quartz sands have made it a popular destination for beachgoers since the latter half of the twentieth century. In recent years all the island's communities have seen rapid development.