Today Paronella Park remains a unique eco-friendly experience where history and romance are seamlessly fused together. Paronella Park is a magical, unforgettable place nestled amongst heritage gardens and 13 acres of lush Australian rainforest situated on the banks of the crystal clear waters of Mena Creek, south of Innisfail. The ruins of the Spanish Castillo feature prominently on the grounds of Paronella Park, as do several other distinctive structures that were designed and built by the original owner of Paronella Park – Jose Paronella. Visitors can explore the architecturally unique ruins of the Castle and buildings of yesteryear, or wander through the lush gardens and Australian rainforest while being transported to another time and place altogether.
Visitors to Paronella Park are immediately struck by the immense natural beauty of the Park. The five hectares of land features two cascading waterfalls, exotic rainforest plants and majestic trees of the forest. Guests can explore the enchanting grounds through a series of winding paths and bridges that snake through the forest and Castle ruins. Paronella Park has a distinct architectural design and layout, and the undulating paths and bridges are organized in a ‘five ways’ design. The paths that wind through Paronella Park have been designed in such a way to provide unusual and somewhat secretive vistas of Mena Creek Falls. At regular intervals guests can gaze through the dense tropical foliage and glimpse the glittering cascading waters of the falls.
In 1929 an entrepreneurial young man called Jose Paronella bought the land that is now Paronella Park and began to single-handedly build his dream Spanish Castle from stone. His vision was to create a Spanish Castillo and commercial pleasure garden in the heart of the tropical Australian rainforest. His intention was to open the glorious Spanish Castillo to the public, showing movies and throwing lavish parties for guests. He also built pathways that snaked through the rainforest, cut tunnels through small hills, and built a tennis court and viewing platform. Jose Paronella intended his pleasure garden to be enjoyed by all, and in the 1930’s and 1940’s Paronella Park was a lively social venue for both the locals of the region and later, during World War Two, American and Australian soldiers stationed in Tropical North Queensland.
Paronella Park was one of the first eco-friendly tourist attractions in Australia. Jose Paronella was involved with re-forestation and planted more than 7,000 trees, including magnificent Kauri Pines that now line Kauri Avenue. Quite amazingly, Jose Paronella single-handedly built the first hydroelectric power scheme in Australia which utilized the water pressure from Mena Creek waterfall. Jose Paronella’s hydroelectric scheme not only powered the entire park, but also provided electricity to some near-by townships. His Spanish Castle and commercial pleasure gardens were an immense success and an architectural marvel.
In 1946 disaster struck when the property was severely damaged by a flood. Without crumbling under the massive task that lay ahead of him, Jose set about the backbreaking task of rebuilding his dream. Before he completed rebuilding however, Jose died of cancer and left the legacy of his work to his family – wife Margarita, daughter Teresa and son Joe. More floods, cyclones, and a catastrophic fire further damaged the Spanish Castle and grounds of Paronella Park.
In 1993 the current owners of Paronella Park, Mark and Judy Evans, began the massive task of rebuilding the dream Jose Paronella originally had. In 1997, Paronella Park was recognised as a historical treasure and listed on the National Trust. In 2006 disaster struck again and Paronella Park was battered by Cyclone Larry. Currently, much of the restoration has been done and their story of passion and dedication is an inspiring one. Paronella Park is continuously being enhanced and restored, however Jose Paronella’s vision is never lost. The Dream Continues …
Spanish Castle – In its heyday the Spanish Castillo at Paronella Park was an opulent ornamental structure set over several levels with external staircases, balconies, parapets, and decorative squared planter pots. The castle contained an elegant ballroom and later a picture theatre. The decor of the Castle was unique and featured blue velvet drapes edged with gold braid, red curtains and Black Bean parquetry flooring. The entrance to the Castle was grand, featuring a charming fountain pool complete with goldfish. The Spanish Castillo nestled amongst the lush Australian forest was a vibrant social venue in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
While Paronella Park seems somewhat enchanted, disaster has never been far away. Paronella Park has been ravaged by flash floods, fires and cyclones (the most recent of which was cyclone Larry that swept through the region in 2006). Today, the ruins of the Spanish Castle at Paronella Park provide visitors an insight into the opulence and character of the Castle as it once was. Guests can wander through the loggia that still features the original fountain, and marvel at the large foyer and ballroom that are open to the sky. The kitchen area of the Castle still retains some of its original fittings and fixtures. Guests take a step back in time as they marvel at the moss covered ruin of the Castle. There is an unmistakable mystery and romance that exudes from Jose Paronella’s Castle ruins, one that captures both the heart and the imagination.
Cottage – the Cottage, which was home to Jose Paronella’s wife and children, was built overlooking Mena falls and the surrounding forest. The Cottage featured four rooms – an entrance foyer, bedroom, bathroom and attic with dormer windows. Today the Cottage is used as a museum.
‘Cafe by the Pool’ – Jose Paronella was inspired by the Botanic Gardens by the water in Madrid when he created the ‘Cafe by the Pool’. The ‘Cafe by the Pool’ is located in the lower section of Paronella Park and was constructed to service the lower picnic area. The cafe by the Pool is adjacent to the rock pool – a popular bathing spot for visitors – and featured change cubicles and toilets. Visitors of the ‘Cafe by the Pool’ could watch tennis games, take a refreshing swim in the creek or enjoy live music from the Music Pavilion. Today, the ‘Cafe by the Pool’ is an enchanting moss covered structure that allows a unique glimpse into the past of Paronella Park.
‘Grand Staircase’ – the Grand Staircase was the first structure of Paronella Park and was constructed by Jose Paronella to link the lower and upper section of the Park. The Grand Staircase boasts 47 stairs. From the top of the staircase visitors to Paronella Park can enjoy the sweeping vistas of the Park, rainforest and cascading waterfalls. At the base of the staircase lies manicured lawns, the ‘Cafe by the Pool’ and the crystal clear waters of Mena Creek.
Tunnel of Love – the Tunnel of Love is a long cavernous tunnel that opens onto the cascading sapphire waters of Teresa Falls. A journey through the Tunnel of Love is mysterious and alluring, and provides an interesting juxtaposition to the vibrancy of Paronella Park. The Tunnel of Love is not for the fainthearted as it is home to a colony of Micro-Bats. The Micro-Bats nest on the roof of the tunnel, and visitors can watch as the bats wriggle and writhe as they sleep.
Hydroelectric Project – adjacent to Paronella Park is the stunning Mena Creek Falls, used as Australia’s first hydroelectric source. The hydroelectric project is a testament to the sheer ingenuity of Jose Paronella. Installed in 1933, the hydroelectric project was inspired by similar projects Jose had witnessed in Europe. The project was a success, and powered the grounds of Paronella Park as well as some of the surrounding townships. Today, the current owners of Paronella Park are undergoing the massive task of restoring the hydroelectric project, and once again running Paronella Park on the electricity generated by Mena Falls, cementing the Park’s eco-friendly credentials.
Paronella Park is picturesque and often used as a venue for weddings and large social events. For more information of weddings or functions at Paronella Park pleas. Paronella Park has featured in major Hollywood films, and television appearances have been numerous including segments on ‘Burkes Backyard’, ‘Who Dares Wins’, ‘Getaway’, ‘The Great Outdoors’, and ‘Totally Wild’. Tropical birds thrive in the park, although they are more often heard than seen. Emerald Ground-Doves, Yellow-Bellied Sunbirds, Figbirds, and Yellow Orioles are frequently seen in the area. An abundance of butterflies call Paronella Park home, including the iridescent electric blue Ulysses butterfly, and the giant of the forest, the Cairns Birdwing butterfly. Visitors also have the opportunity to hand feed the fish and turtles in Mena Creek.
Paronella Park is a delightful eco-friendly tourist attraction that is steeped in history. Paronella Park is home to unique Castle ruins, lush Australian rainforest that is teeming with an abundance of wildlife, beautiful cascading waterfalls and a delightful tea house to relax and enjoy the unique ambiance of the Park. Paronella Park showcases the very best of Tropical North Queensland – from the spirit of its creation through to the abundance of Australian wilderness that is on display, Paronella Park is a ‘must do’ attraction on a Far North Queensland vacation.
Included in the price of admission is:
- The Dream Continues Tour – a 45 minute tour that highlights special features and history of Paronella Park. Paronella Park has a remarkable history, and dedicated and enthusiastic tour guides will escort visitors around the park, highlighting special points of interest and providing guests with an insight into the life of Jose Paronella. The Dream Continues Tour departs every 20 minutes between the hours of 9:30 am to 4:30 pm daily.
- The Darkness Falls Tour – As darkness descends on Paronella Park an hour long guided tour will reveal the parks hidden secrets and nocturnal natives. Watch as the Micro-Bats come alive in the Tunnel of Love, and marvel at the Castle ruins bathed in moonlight. The Darkness Falls Tour departs at 6:20 pm nightly.
- Self Guided Botanical Walk – Guests are welcome to discover the park for themselves. A complimentary map and booklet are provided to enhance visitors enjoyment of the park.
- Admission for a year – admission to Paronella Park is valid for 12 months.
Paronella Park is located on Japoonvale Road, Mena Creek. Mena Creek is south of Innisfail. Paronella Park is 1 ½ hours south of Cairns, and 3 hours north of Townsville. For visitors who wish to self-drive to Paronella Park.
Paronella Park is open between the hours of 9:00 am to 7:30 pm daily (with the exception of Christmas day).
Northern Experience - Rainforest, Waterfalls & Paronella Park
- Departs From: Cairns
Approx 10 hours