If you are lucky enough to do a road trip in North Queensland chances are you might be planning to visit one of the most extraordinary attractions in Australia, Paronella Park. A testament to love, determination and imagination this is a property like no other. We’ve been lucky enough to visit a number of times over the years so this is our Paronella Park review to help you plan your visit. Enjoy!
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Where is Paronella Park?
Paronella Park is located in North Queensland, Australia, just under 20kms south-west from Innisfail and roughly 100kms south-west from Cairns.
What is Paronella Park?
For many people, Paronella Park is a tribute to love and one man’s incredible vision, Australia’s own Taj Mahal.
José Paronella was a Spanish Migrant who came out to Australia in 1913 to make his fortune. He left behind his beloved fiancé and spent 11 years working in the sugar cane industry and eventually in property. He spent the first few years labouring in the cane fields, slashing and planting sugar cane, saving carefully before buying his own cane farm and eventually becoming a savvy developer, acquiring, improving and reselling farms in the area.
In 1924 he returned to Spain only to find his beloved had married another but found love in the arms of her sister Margarita whom he married and bought back to Australia.
In 1929 he purchased 13 acres of virgin forest on the banks of Mena Creek along what used to be the main highway. The couple built themselves a solid, Spanish style house and then started on their lavish dream to create an entertainment precinct that would be admired the world over.
Taking on thick rainforest, floods, wildlife and tropical cyclones Paronella Park was eventually opened to the public in 1935. It was home to Refreshment Rooms, a Theatre, Museum, Function Hall and Ballroom, Tea Gardens, a swimming pool, tennis courts and playgrounds.
One of the biggest features of the park, still to this day, is the magnificent gardens. José planted over 7000 trees in the park including 2 rows of incredible Kauris trees in Kauri Avenue. Another incredible feature was that he designed and commissioned his own Hydro-electricity plant which was powered by the nearby creek and waterfalls.
Given that Jose was from Catalonia he was no doubt inspired by the likes of Antonio Gaudi and other artists and designers of the time back home. Paronella Park had not one but six castles built on the site!
In its heyday Paronella Park was enjoyed by thousands of people including returned servicemen, locals, various dignitaries and even movie stars! It is rumoured that Errol Flynn was a regular and it is said that some of the Balls and Galas held in the Ballroom were the stuff of legend. The mirror-ball in the Ballroom was shipped out from Europe and cost as much as the land!
It’s incredible to imagine what it must have been like at Paronella Park during its Gatsby Era. Women punted on the lake with parasols, men’s played croquet in the gardens, waiters served Iced Tea and Gin in the Refreshment Rooms. All in a very remote part of Australia too.
What happened to Paronella Park?
Sadly there were a couple of tragedies that happened at the park.
In 1946 a large number of logs came down the creek and piled up against the bridge during the first rains of the Wet Season. Eventually, the bridge broke, sending flash floods through the park. The family set about rebuilding the park and managed to reopen again a few years later.
José passed away in 1948 leaving Margarita and their son and daughter to continue the upkeep of the park. Eventually, the family sold the park in 1977 and only 2 years later a fire swept through the property and the park was closed.
With numerous cyclones devastating the area it wasn’t until the current owners purchased the property in 1993 that plans were made to open the park as a tourist attraction. Not to its former glory but enough to create a safe, fascinating site to share the unique history and story of this property.
How to get to Paronella Park
Many people visiting Paronella Park are either driving through towards Cairns and the Top End or have flown into Cairns and are exploring the various attractions in the region.
To get to Paronella Park from Cairns just follow the Bruce Highway south until the Palmerston Highway turnoff on your right. Take that to Pin Gin Hill and turn left along Henderson Drive which will turn onto the Innisfail-Japoon Road. Paronella Park is located on the left a few kilometres further.
If you would prefer to visit Innisfail stay on the Bruce Highway and turn onto River Avenue as you leave town, which becomes Innisfail-Japoon Rd.
💡 Visit Babinda Boulders on your way through Babinda for a refreshing dip. Turn right on Munro St Babinda, and drive for another 8 minutes.
Paronella Park accommodation
While the entry price to the park does seem steep it is good for 24 months (many people visit again on their way back south) and it includes 1 free night in the Paronella Park Camping and Van Park adjacent to the property. The Park has on-site cabins as well as caravan and camping grounds.
Other options in the area are the delightful Mena Creek Flower House and Tropical Bliss Bed and Breakfast. A little further away is Paradise Eco B&B and of course places in Innisfail and popular Mission Beach.
Our pick of accommodation is Mena Falls Guest House, a gorgeous conversion of a former church that can sleep up to 7 guests in 2 bedrooms. It’s only a few minutes walk to the park as well as the famous Mena Creek Pub!
Mena Creek Guest House
Paronella Park prices and other information
The entrance fees for the park are:
Children (5-15): $27
Family Deal :
2 Adults & 2 Children under 15: $142
2 Adults & 3 Children under 15: $152
While this does seem expensive compared to many attractions the tickets are good for up to 2 years and include a night in the adjacent Caravan Park and Camp Ground.
It also includes free tours which are very worthwhile, fish food for the fish and a 16-page self-guiding brochure and map.
💡 It really is worth staying the night to do the Darkness Falls tour, a very special way to see the park, albeit a bit spooky!
The park is set on 13 acres over 2 levels and there are many steps. For people with mobility issues, there is a courtesy vehicle that can take visitors down to the lake without having to use the stairs.
This can also be used for people with babies and strollers although many parts of the park are stroller friendly.
At the entry to the park is a cafe and shop selling local products, memorabilia and refreshments. There are toilets just behind this.
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