Tag Archives: Santa Rosa

The other Florida

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Hotel formerly known as the Dunes (photo: http://www.hiexpress.com)

When the weather in the northeast turns cold, my thoughts migrate south in a snowbird fashion. Today I’m thinking about one of my favorite Florida escapes – Pensacola. More specifically, I mentally teleport to the Dunes hotel sitting on a narrow strip of Santa Rosa Island. It faces the Gulf and is separated from the mainland by a long sound, which means that every guest room faces the water. I still remember walking into my room and being greeted by the soft humming of the ocean surf, so close it seemed like I could just outstretch my hand and touch it. And I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw dolphins playfully jumping between the waves just offshore.

Santa Rosa is a perfect escape. The site of Spanish arrival in the early 16th century, this 40-mile barrier island today belongs in part to the Gulf Islands National Seashore with the landscape ranging from gleaming white beaches and rugged maritime vegetation to historic Fort Pickens on the island’s western tip. Built in 1834, it was the largest of four forts guarding Pensacola Harbor. During the Civil War, Fort Pickens was reinforced the day after Fort Sumter surrendered, later withheld the Confederate assault in the Battle of Santa Rosa Island, and became one of the few southern forts to continuously remain in Union hands. The Fort stayed under military use until after WWII when its old fortifications and gun batteries became obsolete and now is a part of the Seashore. Read the rest of this entry