Paronella Park is such a huge experience, it requires a blog all of its own. And as each picture paints a thousand words, this will be more of a photo essay. For more photos and information, visit www.paronellapark.com.au .
(The following is transcribed directly from their own brochure)
Everyone has a dream, but not everyone’s dreams are fulfilled. Jose Paronella’s dream was to build a castle. He chose a special part of Australia and created Paronella Park. On 5 hectares beside Mena Creek Falls he built his castle, picnic area by the falls, tennis courts, bridges, a tunnel, and wrapped it up in an amazing range of 7,500 tropical plants and trees. It opened to the public in 1935.
Paronella Park … is State and National Heritage listed, and is a National Trust listed property. … Paronella Park is the site of Queensland’s 1st privately owned hydro electric plant (1933).
We arrived late in the afternoon, following a shopping excursion in Ingham and camped up in the front yard of the Mena Creek Hotel (free camp), then walked the short distance to the entrance of the Park itself, across a suspension bridge. My discomfort with heights (and especially moving platforms at height) is still with me – no matter how many times I endeavour to conquer it.
This bridge is not part of the Park itself, but was built in 1988 as a Bicentennial Project. It was constructed by 18 Field Squadron, 2nd/3rd Field Engineer Regiment, Royal Australian Engineers.
Mena Creek Falls (taken from the Bridge)
This picture shows the suspension bridge high above the creek and falls, with the hydro electric plant on the far right. This has recently been restored to be fully functioning and it powers the entire Park.
Upon arrival we were greeted by Mark Evans (co-owner with his wife Judy) most warmly. He was pleased to hear that we had heard his interview with Richard Fidler on Conversations. Also he knew immediately that we were the 5th Wheeler camped at the pub and when we said we were checking out the camp area at the Park for re-location the next morning he asked were we not happy where we were. Of course we are, came our reply, but it’s a one night only camp. That’s when we found out that he owned the pub as well when he replied – Well if you’re happy there you can stay there until you’ve done your tour. I’ll let the staff know.
Mark & Judy definitely know how to operate within the tourism/hospitality industry. Nothing is ever too much bother, the customer is always right, and word of mouth is the best advertising money can’t buy. We even heard him tell an older couple that if they wanted to bring their picnic lunch & thermos in to sit on the deck and enjoy, then they were more than welcome so to do!
Gordon enjoying a read & a coffee on the deck, prior to our day tour.
An arrangement of tropical flowers – all picked from the Park.
The tour guides (we had a young lady in the morning, and a young gentleman – who co-incidentally is their official photographer for their brochures, website etc – in the evening) are very well trained, well spoken and quite passionate about the Park and its history. The story of the Paronella family is very emotional, and as it is told by the guides you can feel yourself drawn to the family.
Jose and Margarita on their Wedding Day in 1925
Teresa Joe & Val
Jose was a pastry chef, prior to embarking on what was to become his life’s work. He came to Australia to prepare for a better life for his future wife, and began as a cane-cutter in Far North Queensland. He saved enough money to buy a cane-farm, then another and so on. After 12 years he returned to Spain to claim his bride – only to discover she had grown tired of waiting (bear in mind he never wrote home in all that time) and had married another man. Not to be defeated, Jose proposed to her sister Margarita and they were duly married. The trip to Australia was to be their honeymoon.
All the work at Paronella Park was hand-made by Jose and his workers. In the cement work, the indents of their fingers/hands can still be seen to this day.
The planters (which can be seen in the centre of the bottom picture) were individually moulded by Jose – all 500 of them! But that is nothing compared to the balustrade inserts – there were 8,000 of them. Yes, EIGHT THOUSAND – once again all individually moulded by Jose. The man was truly driven by his dream.
The creek is fast flowing and home to much aquatic like, including black bream, turtles and eels – all of whom benefit from being fed special pellets provided to the visitors for just such purpose.
The gardens, despite having been ravaged over time by many floods and cyclones, are most impressive.
The Kauri Walk – from each end. These trees are 80 years old.
The Fountain, between the Tea Rooms and the Playing fields.
After a full morning (over four hours), we trundled back to ‘the pub’ for a rest before returning at dusk for the night tour. There is a restoration programme underway, which will eventually see all the buildings reinforced and made safe for visitors to view from closer range. At the moment – due principally to flood damage and subsequent ‘concrete cancer’ – the main buildings are only viewed from a safe distance, and some judicially placed structural supports need to be taken into account when lining up your photo.
The Wishing Well – at the entrance to the old Ballroom
The Fountain near the Tea Rooms
The main Mena Creek Falls . . . and Teresa Falls
Paronella Park is definitely a ‘must do’ – these few words and pictures can go nowhere near the actual experience. And, once again highlighting Mark & Judy’s vision, your pass is valid for two years. Yes, TWO years. All that is required is photo identification and (the really hard part for me) keeping (and remembering where you kept) your ticket/pass.
Do yourselves a favour – come visit Paronella Park.
Until next time . . .
Live the Life You Love