Santa Rosa Beach is big! It comprises the largest tract of land of the 30A communities along South Walton’s Emerald Coast, stretching from the Choctawhatchee Bay on the north to the Gulf on the south, from Sandestin on the west to Inlet Beach on the east. “The first recorded cabin in Santa Rosa was in the late 1860s, and according to some it was referred to for a time as Hog Town.” (Pathway to Paradise on Florida’s Emerald Coast, 2019, by Robert O. Reynolds, pg 23)
At about the turn of the 20th century, Dr. Charles Cessna purchased 2,000 acres of land from J. J. McCaskill with the intention of building homes on 10-acre tracts. The name Santa Rosa Plantation was typically used at that time because of the turpentine plantation in the area. “The overall tract extended all the way from the south shore of Choctawhatchee Bay to the Gulf, and Cessna’s goal was to create a major agricultural town.” (Pathways to Paradise on Florida’s Emerald Coast, 2019, by Robert O. Reynolds, pg 23). The original Santa Rosa seemed doomed when yellow fever in 1915 killed off many residents, and citrus canker in 1916 decimated the orange trees. Then a hurricane blew through in 1926 and most of the rest of the residents left.
Over the next fifteen years or so, more money and property changed hands, adding Gulf-front property to Santa Rosa. For Santa Rosa Beach, being named one of the top 5 “Favorite towns in America” by Travel + Leisure is always good for your resume.
Within Santa Rosa Beach you’ll find Grayton Beach State Park, Deer Lake State Park, Eden Gardens State Park and Point Washington State Forest, and if you love the outdoors like biking and hiking and exploring, you’ll love these well-kept parks and forest containing miles and miles of meandering trails covered with fallen pine needles, that allow you to explore to your heart’s content.
Eden Gardens State Park is something quite special. It’s home to the historic Wesley House, and is a beautiful backdrop with koi ponds, a rose garden and a butterfly garden. In each of these preserved areas you can also get glimpses of bald eagles, deer, wild hogs, turkeys, alligators and the gopher tortoise, among so much more.
After you’re finished soaking in nature, and it’s time for a meal, the choices are many. You can stick with the deliciously fresh and local Gulf seafood, or enjoy Mexican or Italian or plenty more depending on what you’re in the mood for. If you like trying out local breweries, you’ll definitely want to sample the wares at the Grayton Beer Company and Idyll Hounds Brewing Company. If watching one of South Walton’s magnificent sunsets while you dine is on your bucket list, the Vue on 30A is the place to go.
Sarah Stewart, a 25-year local and bas relief artist, says “Wherever I travel in our great country, I’m always happy to come back home to our little slice of paradise, Santa Rosa Beach.”
Each of the 30A beach communities sprinkled along the Panhandle of Florida have something special to offer. The view of the turquoise green Gulf water, though, as you stand on the white sandy beach, listen to the low and soothing roar of the waves, and watch the sun gradually descend to the horizon is a unique experience that, for those who aren’t fortunate enough to live here, make it a point to come back again and again.
Visiting Santa Rosa Beach for the first time? CLICK HERE to check out Visit South Walton’s First Timer’s Guide.