Paronella Park Mena Creek Queensland

by John on December 2, 2012

What a gem! Full of history, dreams, romance and disasters, Paronella Park captivates each visitor in their own special way. From the majestic Menna Creek Falls, the ruins of the Spanish Castle or the lush tropical gardens, each person will come away with different memories, yet only the most hard to please will never want to return.

The story behind Paronella Park is a tale of an Australian immigrants dream. Prepared to work hard and take chances, José Paronella, a baker by trade, came to the lucky country determined to make his fortune. Working as a cane cutter in the local sugar industry, saving every penny he made to buy virgin forest, clearing and ploughing to sell the land as going cane properties for a profit, José amassed a small fortune.

Some would call him a developer, others an entrepreneur or perhaps just a dreamer. José was a man with incredible foresight for what could be. When he saw the land that Paronella Park now stands on, land that nobody wanted at the time because it was too rough and steep for any type of farm, José had a vision of grand buildings and gardens where people could come to picnic, and so the dream began.

The castle ruins are still impressive today. Click image for larger size.

Today’s owners of Paronella Park, Mark and Judy Evans, are similar to José in many ways. When they bought the property in 1993, it was a run down, vandalised and almost forgotten relic of time gone by. The Bruce Highway had been moved many miles to the east, so passing trade was very slim. Floods and cyclones had pounded the area over many years and a fire had all but destroyed the once beautiful Grand Ballroom and theatre.

Mark and Judy have recreated José dream and turned Paronella Park into a flourishing tourist attraction. Through sheer hard work, the park has withstood cyclones Larry and Yasi in recent times and continues to prosper under their guidance. The original Hydro-Electric scheme has been restored. Maintenance and preservation is an ongoing project, with a dream to rebuild the Grand Ballroom in the future. What a place for weddings.

With Mena Creek Falls right on the doorstep and the smaller yet equally beautiful Theresa Falls within the gardens, wandering through Paronella Park is full of visual delights. The old Spanish ruins, hand built by José back in the 1930′s, are romantic in themselves.

Such a beautiful place for a quiet picnic or refreshing swim. Click image for larger size.

The Refreshment Rooms or Castle on the lower level conjures visions of what the times would have been like in the 30′s. Scenes of people dressed in their Sunday best, enjoying picnics by the falls and meals in the refreshment rooms. You can see the “change rooms” on either side of the refreshment rooms and wonder how the ladies could change into bathing suits from those fine dresses and large hats, without feeling slightly cramped.

Sit at one of the picnic tables handmade by José in the Tea Gardens and let your imagination fly. If you close your eyes for a minute you can almost hear the laughter and chatter of local folk over the gentle noise of the waterfall. People, just like today, enjoying time out at the Spanish Castle, a swim under the waterfall and perhaps tea and snacks made by José’s wife Margarita.

Strolling down Lovers Lane to the Tunnel of Love. Jose dug a tunnel from here, through the hill to the spring fed waterfalls, which he named Theresa after his daughter.

The guided tours will take you into the Tunnel of Love where you can see a coven of micro bats nesting inside the cave. Night tours are really popular. You get to feed turtles, look at bush turkeys nesting high in the trees, feed fish and eels, perhaps chase a firefly or two and see the wonderful Castle Ruins light up in the dark.

Paronella Park is one of the best tourist attractions I have ever visited. It is not something that will give an adrenaline rush. It is a place where you can allow nature and history to invade your mind. A place where you can slow down and enjoy natural surroundings, the beauty of waterfalls, tall trees, lush forest. The story of Paronella Park is amazing because it’s so original. Do yourself a favor and do everything in your power to visit this amazing place.

Here are a few things we loved about Paronella Park on our 2 night stay in November 2012.

You are personally greeted by a staff member in the carpark and escorted into the park reception.
Guided tours are conducted regularly with friendly informative escorts.
You are free to wander the gardens by yourself at any time. Just take care.
If you have trouble with mobility, vehicles can be quickly arranged to transport you to the lower level.
Accommodation is available, in clean and comfortable cabins or caravan and camp sites. Amenities are spotless.
There is a cafe with delicious meals.
The staff are awesome!
When you visit you get free entry for the next 2 years.

I’ll definitely be going back to Paronella Park next time I’m north of Townsville.

(Paronella Park is located just 15 minutes west of Innisfail. Tours are conducted from Cairns with full information and tour company here!)

Address: 1671 Japoonvale Rd (Old Bruce Highway)
Mena Creek
Queensland 4871
Ph: 61 7 4065 0000
Fax: 61 7 4065 3022

The change rooms, on the side of the refreshment rooms, allowed for privacy for those wanting to swim in Mena Creek. Click image for larger size.

Another view of the castle ruins of Paronella Park. Note the flower boxes that Jose made by hand still holding plants. Click image for larger size.

The first structure made at Paronella Park by Jose was these 47 steps from the lower level to high ground. He carried all the sand and gravel by bucket using these stairs. Click image for larger size.

The Refreshment Rooms at night. Click image for larger size.

The gardens are more than impressive. Just the size of these kauri trees make one feel small. Jose planted many varieties of trees and shrubs to compliment the natural vegetation of Paronella Park. Click image for larger size.

Images copyright to Tanya Puntti


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