JOSE’S DREAM LIVES ON
Driving along the quiet and serene Canecutter’s Way in Far North Queensland, you’ll come across a magical place set across from the falls, a Dream come true. With a Castle and much more called Paronella Park.
A castle in Australia? Yes, indeed. Thanks to the dream of one man, Jose Paronella, a Spaniard who came and worked in the sugarcanes to build up the finances so that he could create his own castle.
A CHILD’S DREAM
As a child Jose had always been enchanted with stories from his grandmother about the grand castles scattered around Spain. Jose knew that one day, he would build a castle of his own.
Jose had made his fortune from buying sugarcane farms, building them up and selling them off. Eventually, after 11 years of working on the farms and 1 year after he returned from Spain with his new bride, Margarita, they found the idyllic location on the banks of Mena Creek. With a waterfall too!!
Jose, along with his family and friends, spent the next five years, planting over 7,000 trees on 5 hectares and turning this barren area into a beautifully landscaped Entertainment and Recreation park for one and all to enjoy.
The main building held a ballroom/ theatre, serving ice creams and refreshments to the crowds that would come to also wander the manicured gardens he had created. The tea-room further down was the spot to enjoy the waterfall views from within or to take a dip in the cool waters below. There were tennis courts and bocce lanes. Playgrounds for the kids.
Jose made so many beautiful pathways that intertwine across the park. A Lover’s Lane wide enough for two to walk side by side; the Kauri Avenue with the mammoth trees guarding high in the sky; even a tunnel through the hill to make a short cut to see the mini waterfalls that he created out of the creek at the back of the property. The tunnel has since been closed and remains a tranquil home to a family of micro-bats now.
Jose even built his own hydro-electric pump that light up the falls at night and powers all the buildings, even the caravan park now attached to the property. He was a man ahead of the times and an absolute power horse when you see the work that he did with his own hands. He carefully planned and carried out the planting of the 7,000 trees, he made over 500 concrete planters scattered all around the ground, impressive concrete balustrades decorating paths leading here and there.
The steps up to the Main building were the first to be built just so that Jose could carry all the material that he sourced out of the river to build a large part of the park. This along with the buildings, the courts, the paths, the list just goes on.
Sadly, after Jose’s death the park began the fall into disrepair. A fire in the main building was the final nail to close the park with the owners at the time simply abandoning one man’s dream as too hard to maintain.
MODERN TIMES FOR OLDEN WAYS
In stepped the current owners, Mark & Judy Evans. Having travelled around Australia searching for something to get involved in, they stumbled upon the ruins of Paronella Park and fell in love with it all.
Understandably, it wasn’t an easy project to get themselves into. But their hard-work and determination has paid off for the family. Being voted the Winner for the #1 Must do in Qld definitely shows you that others agree.
The buildings have been left as shells of their past but there’s plans to renovate the ballroom and bring it back into its former glory. Projects like this take time and a large chunk of money so the project isn’t planned to be finished for another 3-4 years.
After the flood back in 1946 the tea-room was never used again. The waters had risen so much that it was completely covered and all the inner-workings were destroyed. But even all empty and moss-covered like this it has a charm to it that captures one and all in their tracks. Even going so far as to inspire a great piece of Japanese animation by the name of “The Castle in the Sky”.
Paronella Park is a great place for just spending the day but the camping grounds and cabins out the back are included in the price so why wouldn’t you at least spend the night. This way you can also take the well-informed day & night tours (also included in the ticket price) around the part and learn more of the story about Jose and his family, and the life of this wonderful Paronella Park.
Another great factor that I loved was brought in by the current owners. The return ticket pass gives you 24 months to return for a day visit and 12 months to return and stay in the campgrounds. For free!! And why wouldn’t you return? It’s just amazing to go and see the parks in one season and to be able to venture back in another and see all the changes brought on by mother nature.
Personally, i’ve fallen in love with this land of dreams and can’t wait to return to check on how the renovations are coming along. There’s something about this place that proves to us all that if you set your heart on something, your dreams really can come true.
So, Thank you to Jose and theParonella Family for creating this oasis. And Thank you to the Evans family for bringing it back to life and for keeping Jose’s dream living for all of us to enjoy and for the future.
I’ll be back. I hope that you’ll make it a definite place to visit next time you’re in this part of the world. For more information on Jose’s story and on Paronella Park look at their super site and be tempted to go and discover it for yourself.
The magical place, where dreams come true!!