Day Trip from Nashville to Port Royal State Historic Park, Dunbar Caverns, Clarksville

In early summer 2017, Aleksi and I took a great day trip from Nashville, TN, up to Clarksville, a cute little town an hour north of Nashville, right on the border with Kentucky. Our first stop was the nearby Port Royal State Historic Park. This is a really neat park. Not only was it lush and gorgeous and filled with wildflowers, it has some fascinating history. Settled in the 1780’s, it was one of the earliest colonial communities and trading posts in Middle Tennessee. In the 19th Century, the town of Port Royal became a trading hub, thanks to its strategic location at the head of the Red River. Eventually, bigger trading towns rose up in the region and the town slowly disappeared. Today, all that’s left is one historic general store building, but there’s some great signage around to let you know what was once there.

The area is also significant because it sits right on the infamous Trail of Tears, the horrific forced march of thousands of Native Americans westward by the US government so that white colonists could take their ancestral lands. It was moving to stand on the old road where they would have walked, and a sober reminder of the foundation of cruelty and theft so much of American society is built on. The town of Clarksville itself is really cute. The star of the little historic downtown is a stunning Victorian building from the late 19th Century that once served as a customs office and now holds the local history and art museum (which is worth a visit, especially when you need to get out of the Tennessee summer heat). I had to a do a double take when I first saw the building because it’s not the kind of thing you expect to see in a little Tennessee town.  After wandering around downtown Clarksville, we ate an incredible lunch at Silke’s Old World Breads, a killer German-style bakery and lunch spot run by a German woman and her family. It was so fun to be in the middle of a small town in Tennessee and hear people behind the counter and in line speaking German! And their bread basket definitely satisfied some of my cravings for German bakeries that had plagued me since coming back from Berlin a few months earlier.

After lunch we checked out another nearby TN State Park, Dunbar Cave. There’s not too much to see there except the opening to the cave and the old concession area built in the 60’s. However, it’s got a really interesting history as a community gathering space and summer recreation area, thanks to the cool air that comes out of the mouth of the cave, which is one of the largest in the county (Middle Tennessee has endless caves, so that’s saying something). Definitely worth a stop by if you are in the area.


35mm taken with my Canon EOS Rebel 2000. Click here for more posts from Tennessee.

And don’t forget to check out my podcast about museums and travel, Museums in Strange Places, available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you get your podcast fix.