As a travel writer, I am often asked how I find the location and the story. To be honest, the story often finds me. And that is precisely what happened on the Panhandle on Florida RT 30A.
I am a social media fan of @RideParkLive. They travel across America with their mountain bikes, but not always riding in the mountains. Sometimes, they enjoy the coast. Their photos of Top Sail State Park on the Florida RT 30A Panhandle lured me to this beautiful spot. Baby powder white sand next to emerald green water. Biking, paddle boarding…and, of course, local food and drink.
And here is where the story found me. As we checked into the campground within this beautiful state park, the park ranger told me of the paved bike trail running along Florida RT 30A. The path is separate from the busy road and runs beside public beach access points, through small communities, and in front of a favorite brewery and local coffee shops.
The 30A Bike Trail reached out and touched me on the shoulder.
When traveling, I like to find food and beverage entrepreneurs. I look for the spots owned and visited by the locals. Florida’s RT 30A supplied a mix of entrepreneurial stories and beautiful views.
If you travel to the area without a bike, that’s OK. Along the path, you will also find several rental shops such as 30A Bike Rentals, Peddler’s Bikes & Beach Life, and even Pedego Electric Bikes 30A. The route is also dotted with ample bike racks, park benches, and places to find a cold drink. I visited in late January and early February and found daytime temperatures in the 70’s.
On this trip, it was the search for coffee that leads me along the path to local shops and into the communities along the Panhandle. On the first morning, I found the Ed Walline Beach Access, across from a cluster of shops called Gulf Place. A walk on the beach with a cup of local coffee is, in my opinion, the perfect way to start any day.
Outdoor seating with an “Open” sign beckoned me into Sunrise Coffee Company. The funky vibe and the locally roasted coffee won my attention. Oh, and the donuts. A cup of rich coffee paired with a maple-bacon donut and a walk on the beach started my day. The donuts are supplied by another local entrepreneur, Charlie’s Famous Donuts.
While parked at the Ed Walline Beach Access, I also noticed another travel favorite—handcrafted ice cream. I spied Pecan Jacks and made a note to return. If a morning walk on the beach was the perfect way to start a day, I imagined that watching the sunset with a cup of ice cream would be a sweet ending.
My husband and I did return. A few times. We would choose from flavors such as Elvis and Banana Pudding and walk across the street to watch the sunset. Pecan Jacks’ handcrafts traditional ice cream and a line of boozy ice creams that are for those over 21 years old. We enjoyed our ice cream as I set up my camera to capture the sunset.
Sometimes, you need to hit the pause button. Sit down, watch and listen for the adventure to unfold. Locations along Rt 30A were the perfect place.
“An eclectic mix of cuisine, libations & culinary essentials”…from the Modica Market website
I found the community of Seaside along with the 30A bike trail. While sitting on a park bench, watching the morning start in this small community, I saw a local wearing a t-shirt. A drawing of a bike laden with picnic food and “All Paths Lead to Modica Market…Seaside, Florida” Hmmm…do they have coffee?
I found the Modica Market. Yes, they have coffee, and they open at 7 AM. I walked into a foodie and craft beverage icon in the Panhandle region. If you are a DW&S Brand Fan, then you are probably a foodie. Put this market on your Rt 30A Panhandle Bucket List. Arrive early, get a cup of your favorite caffeine and browse the market.
Or, perhaps, you would like to sip a popular Modica Market Mimosa. The Modica Mimosa has a strong social media following. Search for this Mimosa of any social media platform, and you will find that it has a cult following. (for good reason) As an extra perk to your Florida visit, you can enjoy this Mimosa as you walk along the beach, just across the street, 30A.
As you browse Modica Market, you will find local produce, fresh-baked pastries or cakes, a deli with sandwiches and gourmet prepared foods, and local loaves of bread. Everything that you need to create the perfect beach picnic. You will also find shelves lined with local package foods, including a collection of Modica branded products. If you are looking for local craft beverages, you will find wine, a beer brewed on 30A, and a special blend of Modica coffee beans. This market is a curated collection of great tastes, and I wanted to meet the curator.
Modica Market is also a local entrepreneurial success story. In 1988, Sarah and Charles Modica retired to Seaside, Florida. They had previously worked together in their grocery business in Alabama for fifty years. They brought a strong heritage in the food and grocery business to Seaside, and the developers of the community urged them to build Modica Market. They built the market, and three generations of the Modica family have created a store that is a well-loved brand.
I walked into Modica Market in search of coffee. It was early, and I used the advantage of the non-crowded store to browse. I had the opportunity to meet Charles Modica, and he told me the story of his parents and their move to Seaside Florida. They built a business as the community built-up around them. The family has seen a lot of changes in the region in the past thirty years. One thing remains the same—the family’s commitment to bring a unique collection of quality food and beverages to the area.
I visited Flordia Rt 30A in Winter. The high season is both Spring Break and Summer. Charles Modica told me that the Modica deli can fulfill up to 1400 tickets on a busy high-season day. On busy seasonal days, the market employs 20+ staff members to ensure a positive customer experience. The market is not only providing a great customer experience, but they are teaching the next generation of high school and college students the lessons of an entrepreneurial spirit. Working at Modica Market may just be a hard “class,” but the lessons learned will be used throughout a career.
Also in Seaside, Florida, I enjoyed visiting a row of renovated Airstream trailers—restored into a row of food trucks. I enjoyed shrimp by the beach, and our Boykin Spaniel dog enjoyed dining with us on the patio at the restaurant Great Southern.
I found the joys of visiting the Florida Rt30A Panhandle in the Winter. At times, I was alone walking on the beach in the morning hours. I enjoyed the 30A bike trail without a crowd. I had time to pause and wait for the story to unfold. And I had time to chat with Charles Modica and hear about the history of the area and his market. I will be back next Winter.
RT 30A is the Foodie Trail. Be sure to experience it by bike, on foot or by car. From hotels to private rentals/resorts or camping in state parks, you will also find the lodging to fit your needs. Plan your escape from the Virginia cold and head to 30A next Winter. I will be sitting on the patio in front of the Modica Market with a cup of coffee or one of those famous Mimosas. Hope to see you there!
If you like the Florida Panhandle, check out our trip to St. Augustine