Santa Rosa Island (Florida)

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Santa Rosa Island
The Island of Santa Rosa
Island of Pensacola
Nickname(s): SRI
Country United States
State Florida
County Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa County, Florida
Time zone CST (UTC-6)
Area code(s) 850
Santa Rosa Island, looking east, with characteristic sea oats.
Map showing Santa Rosa Island south/east of Pensacola, Florida (right-click map to enlarge).
The Gulf of Mexico: the shining light in the back is from the sun's light being reflected off windblown particles of white sand from the beach.

Coordinates: 30°22′57″N 86°51′23″W / 30.38250°N 86.85639°W / 30.38250; -86.85639 Santa Rosa Island[p] is a 40-mile (64 km) barrier island located in the U.S. state of Florida, thirty miles (50 km) east of the Alabama state border. The communities of Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach, and Okaloosa Island are located on the island. On the northern lee side, of the island, are Pensacola Bay on the west (see map) and Choctawhatchee Bay on the east, joined through Santa Rosa Sound.

Santa Rosa Island has weathered numerous hurricanes and other tropical cyclones, including the hurricane of September 1559, Hurricane Erin and Hurricane Opal (both in 1995), Hurricane Ivan (2004), Hurricane Dennis (2005), Tropical Storm Claudette (2009), and the remnants of Hurricane Ida (2009).

Parts of the island are in the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Santa Rosa Island was the site of the earliest European settlement in the mainland United States, beginning in August 1559, led by Tristan de Luna from New Spain (Mexico).


Santa Rosa Island was the site of early exploration by the Spanish Conquistadors circa 1519. Years later, a settlement expedition arrived from Vera Cruz (of New Spain), in August 1559, led by Tristan de Luna. However, Spanish settlements in the area were later abandoned in 1561, due to problems of storms, famine and conflicts with native inhabitants. St. Augustine, Florida, though later settled on the Atlantic coast of Florida, on August 28, 1565, proved more permanent.

During the American Civil War, the island was the site of the Battle of Santa Rosa Island,[1] on October 9, 1861. Richard Anderson crossed from the Florida mainland onto Santa Rosa Island with 1200 men, in two small steamers, in a failed attempt to capture Fort Pickens (located on the west end of the island).[1]

In 1929, Santa Rosa Island was sold by the U.S. War Department to Escambia County, Florida, for US$10,000. Ten years later, the county returned 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.

An 875-acre (3.54 km2) parcel of Santa Rosa Island with 3 miles (4.8 km) of Gulf frontage was conveyed to Okaloosa County on July 8, 1950 in an informal ceremony at the county courthouse in Crestview, Florida. The county paid the federal government $4,000 to complete the transaction, which was the result of the efforts of Congressman Bob Sikes.[2] The portion of Santa Rosa Island transferred is now known as Okaloosa Island. While the twelve mile (19 km) long beach road onto U.S. Air Force property west of the Okaloosa Island portion of Santa Rosa Boulevard was unguarded and accessible into the 1980s, heightened security concerns in the modern era have led to it being guarded or blocked at all times. Various missile launch and test facilities exist on Santa Rosa Island south and southwest of Hurlburt Field.

The island has seen many tropical cyclones; it was the landfall point of 1995's Hurricane Erin and Hurricane Opal. Hurricane Dennis hit the island in July 2005, and with 120 mph (190 km/h) winds, was the strongest storm to do so. However, a more recent tropical cyclone to make landfall on the island was Tropical Storm Claudette in 2009.

In 2008-2009, a sunken Spanish ship was located and excavated offshore, confirming reports of the 1559 expedition by Tristan de Luna, as the earliest European settlement in the mainland United States.[citation needed]

One of the final missions in the Florida Phase of the US Army's Ranger School is conducted on Santa Rosa Island.

See also[edit]


  [p] - The name Santa Rosa is pronounced, in the region, as "SAN-nuh ROE-zuh".


  1. ^ a b "Battle Summary: Santa Rosa Island, FL",, 2008, web: NPS-B-fl001.
  2. ^ Fort Walton, Florida, "Island Tract Turned Over To Okaloosa - Formal Transfer Completed With $4,000 Payment", Playground News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), Thursday, July 13, 1950, Volume 5, Number 24, page 1.

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