Navarre Beach/Santa Rosa County Tourism: A (Great) Year in Review — and What’s New

It’s certainly fitting that 96 percent of the people who visit Florida’s Most Relaxing Place come for leisure rather than business. And the activity that 81 percent of them enjoy most is — you guessed it — the beach. These statistics come from an annual survey commissioned by the Santa Rosa County Tourism Development Office.

It’s certainly been a very good year for tourism here. Like all coastal Florida destinations, Navarre Beach wants to grow the local economy by growing the number of visitors it draws. After all, these things create jobs, support local businesses and generate tax revenue — which reached nearly $4 million in 2018/2019. That number is nearly double the “bed tax” collections of four years ago.

But we don’t want to grow too much, too fast. To do so could fundamentally change the character of our tourism destination. We aim to offer visitors endless family fun, unique adventures, quality lodging, dining, and amenities, while at the same time retaining Navarre Beach/Santa Rosa County’s intrinsic natural beauty and uncrowded feel. In other words, we want our guests to really relaaaax during their stay.

Generating just the right amount of tourism growth takes imagination and careful planning. It also means we have to continue to improve the experience visitors have in our destination. On that count, we’ve made some upgrades:

  • We’ve added three free-to-use beach wheelchairs, located at the Navarre Beach Pier, Marine Science Station and Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, as well as ADA access mats and an ADA kayak launch.
  • We have worked with Navarre Beach Fire & Rescue to use tourism development tax funds to buy five new lifeguard towers, as well as a new ATV that’s specially outfitted with a lifeguard tower to rove the beach.
    Photo by @conkview (IG)
  • We’ve added beach toy borrow bins, which encourage beachgoers to leave toys behind for others to enjoy while at the same time minimizing waste and cutting down clutter on the beach.
  • We’ve added landscaped medians in Navarre.
  • We love our new sea turtle flashlight filter program (promoting red LED lights or red filters) — and so do the turtles! Beams from conventional flashlights can disorient our beloved sea turtles and impede their journey to the Gulf.
    Photo by John Starett Photo (IG)

And that’s just for starters!

The Gulf Coast Kiln Walk Society plans to open a Historical Working Center for wood-fired pottery and to continue the advancement and education of ceramic arts. We’ve added a new ADA ramp at the historic Arcadia Homestead. Significant upgrades have been made to Santa Rosa County/Visitor Center and the new Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge in Holley/Navarre.

To offer live entertainment and other events for visitors and locals alike, we’re aiming to develop an amphitheater on Navarre Beach. And as one of those practical but highly valuable amenities, we are building two new shower facilities in the parking lot of the Navarre Beach Pier.

To everyone who visited Navarre Beach/Santa Rosa County this year, we offer a hearty thank you for choosing our destination. We also thank our local businesses and nearly 6,000 tourism workers who do everything they can to make sure their stays are wonderful.