Art & History

Art & History on Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach is one of America’s first colonies, settled by the Spanish conquistador Tristan De Luna in 1559. After a few weeks, the settlement was decimated by a hurricane, and the area was eventually abandoned. But Pensacola is resilient as all get out and eventually, it was rebuilt, stronger than ever. In 1834, the United States government contracted out the creation of a military fort, Fort Pickens, on the edge of the island to defend its shores. Controlled by the Union during the Civil War, Fort Pickens was one of the bay’s most valuable protections, as it dealt the final blow against the Confederacy to push them out of Pensacola for good.

In the 1930s, bridges were finally built to connect the island to the mainland, and thousands flocked to the beach to celebrate the grand opening of the Pensacola Beach Casino. With our nationally protected beaches and our one-of-a-kind attractions in Pensacola Beach like the USS Oriskany, the biggest artificial reef in the world, Pensacola Beach’s captivating history continues to grow every day.

And if you’re interested in artistic history spanning beyond Pensacola Beach, you have to visit some of the captivating art galleries in the area. There are a few galleries in downtown Pensacola, but on the island itself, you’ll find Luna Fine Art Gallery in the Hilton Pensacola Beach hotel, where they feature incredible works from local and regional artists.

Fort Pickens

On the western edge of Santa Rosa Island, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the deep channels of the Pensacola Bay, sits one of Pensacola Beach’s iconic landmarks: Fort Pickens.

Fort Pickens in Pensacola Beach, Florida.

Naval Live Oaks Preserve

Just over the bridge in Gulf Breeze is the hidden gem of Naval Live Oaks Reservation. Free to enter and open to the public as part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, the preserved forest encompassing 1,300 acres boasts 7.5 miles of hiking trails, primitive youth campsites, windswept shorelines, 50ft. sandy clay bluffs on the bay, fishing, kayaking, and snorkeling through grass beds on the sound side. Remnants of the first road connecting Pensacola to St. Augustine and beautiful old growth forests that were once used to build battle ships are just a couple of the historical highlights.


On a warm summer day in 1975, Daniel “Chappie” James, Jr. stood at attention on the parade grounds at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado and suddenly felt an added weight on his shoulders. A polished metal-clad star gleamed in the sunlight — a brand new fourth star pinned on his shoulders, marking an extraordinary point in time for a man and all of America.


Pensacola Beach History

The modern era of Santa Rosa Island began in 1931 with Casino Beach. After the first bridges opened, locals flocked here to experience a brand-new casino built by the Pensacola Beach Company. Although there wasn’t any gambling going on, there was no shortage of good times. Take a deep dive into our rich history.

Local Artists & Galleries

Artists from far and wide call the Pensacola area home. The beauty and history of our city provides boundless inspiration for new works of art. Check out our artist profiles and links to galleries where you can find their pieces.