Rock Harbor Marine is seven miles by land from downtown Nashville, so you’ll be looking for music, fun, good food and showbiz celebrities at this popular site. Pull off the Cumberland River at Mile 175 to find all of these things, plus 150 boat slips, a full-service boatyard and a most accommodating staff.
Two historic events formed the present-day marina, one mechanical and one from Mother Nature. About 30 years ago, the site was an active rock quarry until the blasting tumbled away a few rocks near the river, then more and more. Water trickled and then flowed in, filling the quarry and forming the perfect site for a marina. Rising around the boats are steep granite walls with emerald ferns and dripping waterfalls that give the feeling you have somehow boated into a hidden lagoon from a childhood fairy tale. Paddleboats to yachts fill the boat slips, with enough vintage models to make a classic boat lover’s heart sing. On a ledge above and around the scenic marina is the workaday world: a huge service yard, marina offices and an extensive parts department.
Under several owners, the early marina developed, beginning with one barge that is still at the center. The facility flourished especially because it was popular with Nashville boaters, convenient to homes in Belle Meade, Green Hills and other lush neighborhoods. Then in 2010, devastating flood waters poured in, raising the level 52 feet above flood stage, damaging and washing away many of the floating docks, including the popular Blue Moon restaurant, which broke loose and disappeared down river.
Rebuilding and redesigning began, taking three years. It is now better than ever. Existing docks were rehabilitated. New docks were added, bringing the total to 150 slips. This year, the only full-service marina between Old Hickory Dam upriver and Cheatham Dam downriver is thriving. With more requests for boat slips, plans are to keep expanding over the 11 acres. The new Blue Moon restaurant added a big deck and an elaborate floating stage that entices boaters and landlubbers to feast on menu items and music. Just a dock away floats Rock Harbor Yacht Club, housed on the original barge, drawing members for frequent social gatherings.
You don’t even need to own a boat for fun. Try paddleboarding. Adjacent to the yacht club, on “The Barge” as boaters dub this landmark, is Paddle Up, the only paddleboard shop on the water in Tennessee. Here, you can join in America’s fastest growing water sport. Rent a board, take lessons or buy your own board all with expert advice. As one delighted novice said, “You catch on quickly, and you feel like you are part of the water.”
Boats, water, fun, food, music — now all we need is a celebrity. How about guitar wizard Charlie Archer, often aboard his 28-foot Marinette Slipp ‘N Away. If you know country music, you know this man. He was lead guitarist for Conway Twitty for years. After this singer’s death, Archer pursued his other passion: boats. He earned a 100-ton Coast Guard master’s license, then captained tourist boats out of Opryland Hotel. But music called him back as Loretta Lynn’s band director. He now plays steel guitar and tours with her, returning to rest on his boat at Rock Harbor or his home in Oklahoma City.
When Rock Harbor boaters get itchy feet, they only have to travel upriver 15 miles and tie to the docks at downtown Nashville, then walk up the hill for all the restaurants and entertainment Music City has to offer. Or just walk across the bridge and cheer for the Tennessee Titans pro football team. From a pastoral setting to Nashville’s bright city lights, Rock Harbor boaters can have it all.
Rock Harbor Marine
525 Basswood Ave.
Nashville TN 37209
615 356 1111, 800-542-ROCK
Hours: Summer – Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Winter (Oct-April 1) – Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Credit Cards: Accepts all major credit cards
Fuel: Valvtect Marine gas and diesel
Slips: 25 to 70 feet; 350 guest dock with power (uncovered)l transients welcome with reservations
Transients: Reservations necessary. Covered dock if available. (Marina will email a diagram of the marina with your slip hi-lited.) Pumpout. Restrooms with showers. Laundry. Wi-Fi available. Taxi service. Or can arrange bus shuttle into Nashville for groups.
Water Depth: Six feet at entrance (favor the portside of center); 18 feet average in harbor
Amenities: Pumpout; restrooms with showers; laundry; WiFi; ship’s store; fuel dock store with snacks, beverages, T-shirts, lifejackets; full-service boatyard with enclosed shop, MerCruiser technicians and 50-ton Travelift; Blue Moon Waterfront Grille (615-356-6666; www.bluemoongrille.com); Paddle Up board sales, rentals and lessons (615-496-8082, www.paddleuptn.com); taxi service, or can arrange bus shuttle into Nashville for groups
Getting there by land: TN 155 to Robertson Avenue to Basswood Avenue
Getting there by water: Cumberland River Mile 175