Santa Rosa County is included in the Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area. With a population of just over 150,000, it’s county seat is Milton.
Santa Rosa County was created in 1842, named for the Roman Catholic saint, Rosa de Viterbo. Santa Rosa County is so conservative that it just repealed its prohibition on alcohol in 2007.
Santa Rosa County can be divided into three distinct sections: South Santa Rosa, Central Santa Rosa, and North Santa Rosa. The sections are centered on the main east/west roads that pass through the county.
South Santa Rosa County comprises the area from Holley and Navarre in the east to Gulf Breeze at the western end of the Gulf Breeze Peninsula (Fairpoint Peninsula), and along U.S. Highway 98. A section of Santa Rosa Island, containing the unincorporated community of Navarre Beach (pictured above), is also part of South Santa Rosa County. Major bodies of water including Santa Rosa Sound, Pensacola Bay and East Bay strongly influence the housing and life style of citizens in the southern part of the county. This fast-growing region serves primarily as “bedroom communities” for Pensacola to the west and Hurlburt Field, Fort Walton Beach, and Eglin Air Force Base to the east. The U.S. Navy presence is marked by Whiting Field, NOLF Spencer Field and the former Ellyson Field.
Central Santa Rosa County is the area north of the bays and south of the extensive forests separating it from North Santa Rosa. The central section developed along “The Old Spanish Trail” that ran from St. Augustine on the Atlantic Ocean all the way to New Orleans, and further points west. Today, U.S. Highway 90 closely parallels the old trail. The county seat, Milton is located where the trail crossed the Blackwater River. To the west of Milton, the fast-growing community of Pace have turned the west central part of the county into one large “bedroom community” for people who work in the industries here and in Escambia County, to the west. Interstate 10 also passes through this section of the county.
Northern Santa Rosa County is forest and farming country. The only town in the north is Jay. Most development has been along State Road 4 which runs through the northern sections of Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties. A large oil and natural gas field around Jay produced a great deal of oil, and made many farmers millionaires in the 1970s and 1980s, but the field has been depleted and is producing little oil today. The citizens have, for the most part, returned to farming and forestry for their livelihoods.