Navarre, Florida

Navarre, Florida

Navarre is a census-designated place and unincorporated community in Santa Rosa County in the northwest Florida Panhandle. It is a major bedroom community for mostly U.S. military personnel, federal civil servants, local population, retirees and defense contractors. Due to Navarre Beach and the 4 miles (6.4 km) of beach front on the Gulf of Mexico thereof, as well as several miles of beaches within the Navarre Beach Marine Park and the Gulf Islands National Seashore, it has a small, but rapidly growing community of nature enthusiasts and tourists. Navarre has grown from being a small town of around 1,500 in 1970 to a town with a population estimated at 41,940 as of 2020, if including both the Navarre and Navarre Beach Census Designated Places.

Navarre is about 25 miles (40 km) east of Pensacola and about 15 miles (24 km) west of Fort Walton Beach. The community is roughly centered on the junction of U.S. Route 98 and State Road 87. It is part of the Pensacola–Ferry Pass–Brent Metropolitan Statistical Area (more commonly referred to as the Pensacola Metro Area), and is the second largest community in the metropolitan area, according to a study. Navarre is the third-largest community in the Florida Panhandle.

Navarre is also part of the Fort Walton Beach-Navarre-Wright Urbanized Area. It is known for the natural environment, swimming, picnic spots, and its beach.[

In 1693 Spanish explorers Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora and Admiral Andrés de Pez y Malzárraga set sail from Veracruz. A skilled cartographer, scientist, mathematician, and theologian, Sigüenza was responsible for scouting and mapping possible sites of Spanish colonization in Northwest Florida during the expedition. While traveling in the area of East Bay in April 1693 the Spanish discovered what is today called the East Bay River. n honor of Captain Jordan de Reina, an officer who had taken part in the Barroto-Romero voyage of 1686 as well as Sigüenza’s in 1693, the Spanish dubbed the waters on which they traveled, “The River Jordan”.

On April 11, 1693, while sailing up East Bay River, sailors aboard the Spanish ships noticed a group of Native Americans observing from a camp near the shore. In order to greet the natives, a landing party was sent out. By the time the Spanish reached the shore, however, the Native Americans were gone. As the Natives quickly abandoned camp the Spanish discovered half-cooked pieces of buffalo meat sitting over a fire, along with a fierce dog guarding the site. Due to the great number of oak trees in the area the campsite was named “El Robledal,” meaning “The Oakgrove” in Spanish.[10] After erecting a wooden cross and leaving gifts for the natives, the Spaniards continued their exploration upriver. Upon later return to El Robledal, the explorers noticed that their gifts had been taken. In return, the natives had also constructed a wooden cross and left a buffalo hide as a peace offering. The earliest known map of Robledal dates from 1693, the same year as the Pez-Sigüenza Expedition. Three years later, in a 1698 map by Don Andrés de Arriola y Guzmán (the first governor of a settlement in the Pensacola area after the Tristán de Luna y Arellano colony was abandoned), Robledal is again noted.

Settlers are noted as living in the area since at least 1827, when a map of West Florida includes listings of families by the name of Wyman and Williams living along Santa Rosa Sound in what would become Navarre. The Wyman family is believed to be related to Guy Wyman, who would eventually be recognized as the town founder in 1925. The Williams family is likely the source of the name of William’s Creek.

While various settlers had been present in the area since before this time, Robledal was again populated sometime near 1850, with the establishment of a homesead by the Axelson Family.Due to the relative lack of information on the other families, as well as their homestead’s location at Robledal, they are often considered Navarre’s first settlers. Their home was along the shore of the East Bay, on a small cape, in which, they are now the namesake, after the point was officially designated, Axelson Point.

Soon after their settlement in what would become Navarre, they established a shipyard on Axelson Point, jutting into what was also then called, Axelson Cove. The shipyard was considered to be mostly successful, as the family made a business of fixing ships in port in the nearby deep-water port in Pensacola and the river port in Milton, as well as building large-scale ships of their own.

Navarre Beach

Navarre Beach is the beach neighborhood of Navarre. It is on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico.

Immediately to its east is Navarre Beach Marine Park, a former Florida state park. Immediately to its west is a portion of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and farther west is the community of Pensacola Beach.

Recent history
March 26, 2006, a “beach renourishment” project was begun, restoring sand lost due to the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. This project eventually added approximately 200 feet (61 m) of sand and a 14-foot (4.3 m) high berm to the Gulf side of Santa Rosa Island for the entire length of Navarre Beach. The project was completed in December 2006. Another round of beach renourishment was completed in 2016.

The entirety of Navarre Beach was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, with only residents of the beach neighborhood being allowed on that area of the island. Furtherly, It was enforced by a police check on one side of the Navarre Beach Causeway.

Navarre is centered near the junction of U.S. Highway 98, the primary east–west route between Pensacola and the Fort Walton Beach area, and State Road 87. It is located near several large military facilities: Naval Air Station Pensacola to the west; Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base to the east; and Naval Air Station Whiting Field to the North.

Tourism has increased in the Navarre area since 2010, being declared “Florida’s Best Kept Secret” by the local hospitality business. Navarre has a park on the mainland next to Navarre Beach bridge and the Intracoastal Waterway that contains a visitor information center; water splash pad, duck pond, butterfly house, playground, gazebos; pier and small beach area. Boating, Surfing, jet skiing, paddle boarding, fishing, bird watching, exploring scenic trails, and walking/jogging are popular among the residents and visitors. Navarre’s fourth hotel became the first beachfront hotel to operate since 2004 when it opened in 2017.

Eco-tourism and conservation

Navarre is an increasing destination for ecotourism due to its location at the center of the Gulf of Mexico and several important statuaries, as well as its location at the southend of a large and undeveloped woodlands on Eglin Air Force Base. A half-dozen wildlife sanctuaries, conservation centers, and rehabilitation centers have opened in the previous decade to build onto this fact. This includes the: Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, Sandspur Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Navarre Beach Marine Life Sanctuary.

Navarre Beach Fishing Pier

Main article: Navarre Beach Fishing Pier

In 2010 the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier was rebuilt after repeated damage from hurricanes. At 1,545 feet (471 m), it is currently the longest fishing pier on the Gulf of Mexico and in the state of Florida.

Butterfly House (1997–2019)

The Panhandle Butterfly House on Navarre Parkway opened in 1997. Around 14,000 visitors stop by each year to see butterflies up close, learn about their life cycle, and find out how to attract butterflies to their own gardens. A highlight each year is the monarch migration; the orange and black butterflies are seen in the thousands as they travel to and from Mexico to breed. Due to miscommunication on the fault of the Santa Rosa County Commission, the Butterfly House closed its Navarre Park location for the 2019 season. It moved to an historic home near Milton, Florida, a few miles north of Navarre, and reopened in 2021 in this new location

Erin Spence Photography. Click here.

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