Santa Rosa County, Florida is located on the panhandle of Florida between Okaloosa and Escambia counties, with the Gulf of Mexico to the south. The city of Pensacola lies just across Pensacola Bay from Santa Rosa County. The county is 1610 square miles, with a population of 154,104. It was formed in 1842, though originally it was part of Escambia county. The county seat is Milton.
The name comes from Santa Rosa Island, which in turn comes from the Roman Catholic saint Rosa de Viterbo (1235–1252), who was born in Viterbo, Italy. The central part of the county first began to be settled along “The Old Spanish Trail” that ran from St. Augustine on the Atlantic Ocean, across to New Orleans, and further west.
Santa Rosa county contains Florida’s largest state forest, the Blackwater River State Forest, which is a premier canoeing, hiking, and fishing destination. Gulf Islands National Seashore contains miles of bike trails to explore. Located across the Santa Rosa Sound are the sparkling white sands of Navarre Beach. The blue water and white sands make this the perfect location for weekend leisure activities, or that long-anticipated family vacation.
South Santa Rosa county borders Pensacola Bay, Santa Rosa Bay, and East Bay. This location has bearing on the lifestyles of the residents, influencing their recreation, housing, and employment choices. Northern Santa Rosa county supports primarily farming and forestry, while the central area’s proximity to Pensacola has made it a thriving bedroom community of that city.
Santa Rosa County Cities and Towns