History of Navarre, Florida

Please buckle up and get comfortable, for we are embarking on a historical journey filled with twists, turns, and plenty of sunshine!

Act 1: The Birth of Navarre

Like many good stories, our tale begins with a dash of confusion, a healthy dose of mystery, and a smidgen of controversy. The town of Navarre is nestled in Santa Rosa County, in the northwestern part of Florida, more popularly known as the Florida Panhandle. Established sometime in the late 19th century, Navarre’s origins have been debated by historians for years. Who first settled Navarre? When was it first settled? What’s the real story behind the name? As one local quipped, “We have more theories than we have gators!” And that’s saying something.

While there’s a charming tale that Navarre was named by a homesick Spanish sailor pining for his hometown of Navarre, Spain, the reality is likely more prosaic. Most historians agree that Navarre, Florida, was named by Colonel Guy Wyman, a U.S. Army engineer, for his French bride, Noelle Navarre, after he was smitten during World War I. Although, let’s face it, the story of a love-struck colonel is still quite romantic.

Act 2: The Early Years

The early settlement of Navarre was a slow, gradual process, mostly consisting of hearty pioneer types, resilient homesteaders, and – inevitably – more than a few wayward sailors. The verdant forests, plentiful game, and calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico offered much to those willing to wrestle a living from the Florida wilderness.

In the beginning, Navarre’s economy was based on agriculture, hunting, and fishing. The area was remote, but the hardy souls who called it home loved it for its simplicity and natural beauty. They would probably be quite surprised to see it today, with its bustling population and sprawling infrastructure!

Act 3: The World Discovers Navarre

Fast forward to the 20th century, and the world began to take notice of this small Florida enclave. In 1931, Colonel Wyman purchased around 15 miles of what is now Navarre Beach. He had grand dreams of creating a tourist resort, envisioning families from across America flocking to the pristine, sun-kissed shores. The Great Depression put a damper on his dreams for a while, but as we’ll see, Wyman was simply ahead of his time.

During World War II, the region underwent significant changes. Eglin Field, now Eglin Air Force Base, was established nearby and played a vital role in the war effort. This brought an influx of service personnel and their families to the area, which led to increased development. Following the war, many servicemen who had been stationed in the area decided to make it their permanent home, charmed by the gentle waves, the balmy breezes, and probably the lack of heavy snow!

Act 4: The Boom

In the latter half of the 20th century, Navarre really began to flourish. The advent of affordable air travel and the post-WWII economic boom led to a surge of tourists looking for their own slice of Floridian paradise. Navarre, with its untouched beaches and quaint small-town charm, was more than happy to oblige.

In 1960, the Navarre Bridge was built, connecting the beach to the mainland and ushering in a new era of accessibility and growth. No more need for those pesky canoes! This growth was accompanied by an explosion of restaurants, shops, and amenities, transforming Navarre from a sleepy backwater into a vibrant tourist destination. Just as Colonel Wyman had dreamed!

Act 5: Navarre Today and Beyond

Today, Navarre is a beloved vacation destination, offering the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. Visitors can laze on the beach, explore the Gulf Islands National Seashore, or challenge themselves to a hike in the Blackwater River State Forest.

There’s a thriving local community, which has managed to maintain the town’s charm despite its popularity with tourists. Every year, thousands flock to the Navarre Fun Fest, an annual celebration featuring live music, food, and plenty of Florida fun. It’s a far cry from the quiet homesteads of the 19th century, but we think those early settlers would be pretty proud.

So, that’s the story of Navarre, Florida – a tale of love, war, growth, and lots and lots of sunshine. As we close this chapter, we know the story isn’t over. Navarre is still writing its history every day, each sunrise over the Gulf a promise of more tales to be told. So why not come and be a part of it? The sandy shores of Navarre are waiting to welcome you!