Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach is one of the panhandle’s most beautiful scenic areas. A series of beaches makeup this stretch of land between Destin and Panama City Beach, first discovered dating back to the 1700s.
Founded in 1824, Walton County was home to parts of Okaloosa, Holmes, and Washington counties. Having a population of 1,207 in 1830, Walton County was occupied by Muskogee, Euchee, and Creek Indians. Eventually, Santa Rosa Beach was home to buzzing town center called Hogtown Bayou. The town continued to grow as steamboats brought residents in all the way from Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola. Point Washington in Santa Rosa Beach became a small sawmill and timber hub. Today the beautiful Wesley Mansion still stands in Point Washington, being one of the last remaining historic treasures in South Walton. As the sawmill solidified an economy in Santa Rosa Beach, the beaches were beginning to find their own economic value in tourism.
In 1913, The Butler family visited the beaches from the nearby DeFuniak Springs and saw a vision of the future and soon Grayton Beach became the first town among the beaches to blossom what was at the time a budding tourist’s dream. The Butlers “built and rented cottages, sold an occasional lot and operated the town’s general store and a dance hall (site of the present-day Red Bar),” (VisitSouthWalton.com). Access to Grayton was limited until the 1930s when Highway 98 was built. It was then when business and tourism in Grayton began to flourish. Once Grayton’s economic success took off, other beaches in the area began to boom as well. From the east to the west end of Santa Rosa Beach, a string of sixteen Gulf front beaches each began their own tourism efforts and as a collective, created one of the most beautiful tourism destinations in America.
Today Santa Rosa Beach as a whole is a laid-back community filled with artistry, live music, popular local restaurants, events for all ages, and of course beautiful beaches, with each beach having its own personality and treasures. While the beaches seem to move from funky to fancy as they move east, they are all laid back and sure to offer a bewitching experience.