The story of one mans dream……
We all have that ‘one dream’ don’t we? Perhaps a dream to buy a fancy yacht and sail around the world, to travel to far away places, build your dream home or perhaps to buy a new caravan and travel Australia indefinitely…. its healthy to dream. It gives us hope, something to strive for – a reason to keep on going. Well, this is a story about a man- who back in 1929 set about building his own dream. The inspiring element to this story is that this man’s dream was not at all selfish, in fact his dream involved building a special place purely for the pleasure and enjoyment of the public and of course his own family. Paronella Park
History of Paronella Park
Located on a stunning property adjacent to Mena Falls in Far North Qld not too far from Innisfail stands one man’s dream that came to life. Paronella Park. Named after José Paronella- a Spanish national who decided to make Australia his home along with his wife, Margarita and where they eventually started and raised a family. This 13 acre property was primarily dense scrub and as such was purchased by José for a rather bargain price of £120. With a lot of blood, sweat and tears, the land was cleared to make way for construction to start on a grand staircase. The staircase served to provide access to the creek below where sand was carried up to make the concrete used to build the family home at the top.
One of the real focus goals of José’s dream was to build a castle for his wife. An idea Inspired by the many castles that he and his wife fell in love with during their extensive travels through Europe but more so from the many childhood fairy tales his Grandmother used to share with him when he was a boy.
The castle was hand built using poured concrete and reinforced with old railway track. The finish was simply a layer of cement and clay applied by hand- the marks and patterns of their fingers can still be easily seen in the structure today.
A lot of hard work went into building and creating this magical place and other major facilities were progressively added and Paronella Park quickly became an absolute favourite with the local community but more so, with the ‘social elite’.
Some of the additions included a movie theatre which showed movies on a Saturday night that also doubled as a function hall which hosted many parties and social gatherings.
The addition of a rotating mirror ball with its 1270 tiny reflectors and coloured spot lights illuminated a magnificent snowflake affect on the walls and floor- it became a very popular spot for dance parties and disco nights back in its day. So much so, that in the 60’s the movie theatre was removed and the space became dedicated to functions, particularly weddings.
José was passionate about creating something magical and this extended to the gardens. José went about creating a garden setting with native Kauri trees, bamboo forest, fernery and lots of palms. This created a lush tropical rainforest atmosphere and the sound of the flowing Mena Falls really tops off the magical ambience. A part from a large range of other plant species, the fauna that can be found in and around the gardens really add to the atmosphere- particularly the abundance of singing bird-life.
Other features of Paronella Park included a refreshment room, museum, swimmers change room and 2 tennis courts.
In 1933 Paronella Parks own hydro-electric system kicked into action which was the first of its kind in northern QLD. It was damaged in the 1946 floods, but was repaired and continued to operate until 1979. It was restored back in 2009 and remarkably continues to service all of Paronella Parks current power needs.
Sadly José died of cancer in 1948 and his wife passed away in 1967 leaving the huge task of maintaining José’s dream to their daughter (Teresa) and son (Joe). Eventually the park was sold out of the family as the task to maintain it was too mammoth for his children to continue .
Unfortunately, over the years fire, floods and cyclones had taken their toll on the park and caused significant damage to some of the buildings and gardens.
The present owners, Mark & Judy Evans purchased Paronella Park in 1993 and focussed on getting the park back on the map and they have done an amazing job. The task to rebuild, preserve and restore the park is an ongoing project which the owners view as a ‘work of art’. Today, Paronella Park is one of Queensland’s most awarded tourism hot spots and just recently has been voted Queensland’s #1 ‘Must visit’ Tourist Attraction.
During our visit we were greeted in the car park and escorted in with a friendly smile. We were wanting to stay a night in the on-site caravan and camping ground which was included in the admission price. The caravan and camping area adds a fantastic benefit to the park as caravanners, nomads and holiday makers can enjoy a relaxed stay in a basic bush setting complete with power, water, toilets and hot showers. This allows travelling visitors to take their time to explore and wander through the gardens at their own leisure. Staying overnight also allows you to take a guided night tour- something we really think you shouldn’t miss. Experiencing the park come alive at night with strategically placed lighting, the sounds of nature and the sounds of the waterfall- simply memorable.
Tours are hosted every half hour and are conducted by friendly and very knowledgeable guides. The tours take you from the cafe down through the gardens, past the wishing well and over to top of Mena Falls. You visit the ballroom where you learn about how it was used for the many types of functions before heading to the grand staircase and down to the lower falls picnic area where the original concrete picnic tables still stand. Here you can see the falls and feed the fish from the bank.
You continue your tour through the gardens to see the refreshment rooms (a stunning photo opportunity), the ‘Love Tunnel’ and follow the man made stream to Teresa Falls (which José constructed himself and named it after his Daughter).
Paronella Park came highly recommended by so many other travellers we had met. We are glad we looked into it further and made time to stop by. A real highlight of our travels.
For more information visit www.paronellapark.com.au. All the information regarding admission prices, inclusions and location are all there for you to help plan your visit.