24 Jun 2021
What is Okaloosa Island?
What is Okaloosa Island?
So where does Okaloosa Island actually start?
Okaloosa Island starts when you cross the Marler Memorial Bridge in Destin if you travel from East to West. If you are coming from the West like Fort Walton Beach, Navarre, or Pensacola then the Brooks Bridge marks the beginning of Okaloosa Island. Anything west on Okaloosa Island after Brooks Bridge is considered Santa Rosa Island. The same can be said for the Marler Memorial Bridge, anything east of the bridge and the Emerald Grande is Destin and NOT on Okaloosa Island. This island runs all the way to Pensacola, as shown:
What’s even more interesting is that Santa Rosa Island has and had fortresses built on it. For example, the first fortress built on Santa Rosa Island Was in 1717, the Spanish built a little fort at Siguenza Point to protect Pensacola from the French. Once the United States acquired Florida, they turned Siquenza Point, into what is now Fort Pickens. Fort Pickens was started in 1829 and ended in 1834 and is named after the Revolutionary War hero General Andrew Pickens. From 1834 until 1926 the War Department controlled the entirety of Santa Rosa Island until March 26 when Congress decided that over 40 military installations across the US would be considered surplus. This includes Santa Rosa Island Military Reservation and Moreno Point Military Reservation- now known as Destin. Fast forward to 1953, the Okaloosa Island Authority was created to administer the portion of Santa Rosa Island owned by Okaloosa County.
Fort Walton also changed to Fort Walton Beach as tourism gained steam from being the world’s luckiest fishing village. The part of Santa Rosa Island that is owned by Okaloosa County has gone through a lot of legal hurdles from 1929 to 1995, but things seem to have finally settled down.
Fast forward to today Okaloosa Island has kept its beaches but has grown its tourism industry tremendously from the Gulfarium to The Boardwalk, The Emerald Coast Convention Center with vacation rentals everywhere on the island. What is so unique about Okaloosa Island is how it sits on the Gulf and the Choctawhatchee Bay. For those wanting to test out the “World’s luckiest fishing,” they can try their hand at deep-sea fishing. Don't want to fish? You can still enjoy the wildlife including our famous dolphins with a dolphin cruise or maybe snorkel some of the 700 different artificial structures around the 16 different reef locations. If huge bodies of water aren’t your thing, then “The Bay” as locals call it, can be just as fun, with calmer waters, and different varieties of fish. You can also parasail quite easily in the bay making for an exciting, and memory-making trip.
Even though Okaloosa Island is only a 3-mile strip, it most certainly packs a punch from hosting loads of events, housing thousands of tourists, providing pounds of fresh local seafood for restaurants, and providing some of the best fishing experiences in the world, Okaloosa Island is a one of a kind area.