Florida Panhandle's Weird Time Zone Line

Florida is Divided by 2 Time Zones
By
Patti Jewel
Florida's Time Zones

Florida is a divided state when it comes to time. While most of Florida is in the Eastern Time Zone, nine of Florida's 67 counties are in the Central Time Zone and one county is split. 

The counties in the Central Time Zone are: 

  • Escambia County
  • Santa Rosa County
  • Okaloosa County 
  • Walton County
  • Holmes County
  • Washington County
  • Bay County
  • Jackson County (borders Eastern Time)
  • Calhoun County (borders Eastern Time)
  • Gulf County (borders Eastern Time) and is also split with 2 timezones. The northers side of Gulf County is in the Central Time Zone and the south along the Gulf Coast is in the Eastern Time Zone. 

So how did Florida get divided on time?

First, let's review how time zones were established. Time Zones were first introduced in 1883 by a civil engineer who came up with the idea to help train schedules. Then in 1918, time zones became law with the Standard Time Act that implemented standard time zones and daylight saving time in the U.S. 

In Florida, the time line was established along the Apalachicola River, beginning at the Georgia border and following the fiver to the south. However, the time line does not go all the way to the coast as the river does. The shipping and railroad industries wanted to keep the coastal areas in the Eastern Time Zone and therefore, the line turns at the fork in the Apalachicola River in Apalachicola and encompasses Post St. Joe and all the communities and beach towns to the south. 

Residents Divided by Time Zones

The time zone is an important issue that has residents divided as well. In 1982, the residents of Gulf County had the opportunity to change the whole county to Central Time, but 55 percent chose to keep it as it is.

In 2018, the governor of Florida proposed The Sunshine Protection Act that would permanently keep Florida on Daylight Saving Time. This bill was passed by the Florida Legislature but may never happen since it requires an act of Congress to change a time zone. A related bill proposed moving all of Florida to the Eastern Time Zone which was not passed. While there are many residents who would like all of Florida to be on the same time zone, the majority of residents in the Central Time Zone counties in Florida's western panhandle are adapted to the Central Time Zone and want to keep it. 

Interesting Communities Living with daily Time Zone differences

Gulf is the only county in Florida with two time zones. Cities close to the time zone in Gulf County include Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka, and Apalachicola. Residents who drive across the Apalachicola River in Florida, enter into a different time zone. Schools and government offices are often working from different time zones.