Paronella Park located 120 kilometres south of Cairns in Tropical North Queensland has an amazing story, with a legacy for all to enjoy. José Paronella arrived in Australia from Catalonia, Spain, in 1913 and dreamed of building a castle. He worked with determination for 11 years cutting sugar cane before going on to buy, improve and resell cane farms. Shortly after arriving, he spotted 13 acres of virgin scrub along Mena Creek Falls.
José returned to Spain in 1924, married Margarita, and they honeymooned back in Australia. In 1929 he purchased the land he’d seen, and they began to build a house followed by Jose’s dream castle as a reception centre. They planted over 7,000 trees as ‘pleasure gardens.’ A century later, José’s dream, Paronella Park lives on for all to enjoy and is a Tourism Hall of Fame winner and RACQ number one must-do in Queensland.
José and his wife constructed the castle using concrete reinforced with railway tracks, covering it by hand with clay and cement, their finger marks leaving a reminder of their labour of love.
In 1933, they commissioned a Hydro Electric generating plant that supplied power to the park. In 1935, Paronella Park opened to the public with the castle featuring a theatre that showed movies every Saturday night and was a popular venue for dances and parties. In 1946, the property suffered major damage when a mass of logs and branches broke through a bridge during the wet season and descended on the park. The family repaired the castle, recreated the Refreshment Rooms, replanted the gardens and José added a fountain.
Planting over 7,000 trees, tropical plants, and ferns, the property has become a lush rainforest habitat for hundreds of varieties of birds, butterflies, fish, and other native animals.
José died in 1948, so Margarita and the family continued running the park which suffered further damage during the floods of 1967, the year Margarita died. The family forged ahead through the floods of 1972, and 1974 before selling it in 1977. A fire, three more cyclones, and a flood were major setbacks, but the owners continued to recreate, replant, and re-honour José’s dream.
Visit Paronella Park on one of our North Queensland Tours.
Mark and Judy Evans have owned Paronella Park since 1993. They see the park as a piece of art and are dedicated to maintaining and preserving it.
José Paronella’s dream was to build a castle, a place of beauty where the public could come to enjoy the tranquillity and be entertained. He chose a magical piece of land beside Mena Creek Falls and together with his wife Margarita worked hard to make his dream a reality.
Today, a visit to Paronella Park is a celebration of the Paronella family’s imagination, determination, and resilience. The remarkable castle architecture, the fully restored 1930's hydroelectric generator, a stroll through the magnificent Kauri Avenue, or to spring-fed Teresa Falls. You can traverse small bridges, or the suspension bridge across Mena Creek Falls, or visit the Tunnel of Love.
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