Technically, José Paronella was on his honeymoon with his wife Margarita, but his trip from Spain to Australia in 1925 was also the beginning of years of labor and the creation of a dream estate in a lush jungle.
On five hectares (about 12 acres) in North Queensland, Paronella first planted thousands of trees to create the right environment for his vision. He then built the Grand Staircase to help him carry river sand up the hill to make concrete, with which he built first his house, then a grand castle inspired by those of Spain, and installed the oldest hydro-electric dam in North Queensland. Among the park’s features include the theater, foyer and refreshment rooms within the castle, a fountain built by Paronella, and the concrete benches he built next to a beautiful waterfall.
After a decade of labor, the park opened in 1935. José Paronella continued to labor tirelessly on the park, fixing it after a bad flood in 1946, until his death in 1948. He had been laboring on the park for the last 21 years. Without his tireless energy, it became difficult to upkeep the park and over the years, the park was badly damaged by natural disasters; floods, fires and a cyclone decimated it. Though José’s children and grandchildren continued to own and care for the park for many years, by 1977 the park was sold. After a fire struck in 1979, and Cyclone Winifred in 1986, the park was closed for good.
But, in 1993, the Park was purchased by Mark and Judy Evans and reopened to the public. The Evans see their role as that of maintaining and preserving the great work of art created by José Paronella. The park now operates tours throughout the day, as well as a spectacular evening tour. They recommend you spend at least three hours exploring both the natural and man-made wonders, from the grand staircase and castle to the waterfall and magnificent flowers.
Paronella Park has won numerous tourism awards and was listed as a National Trust in 1997. Additionally, in 2008, they updated the hydro-electric system, which generates all the power for the park and puts power back into the grid for neighboring towns.
To seal this Hollywood ending, Australian director Ben Hackworth plans to make a feature film of the history of the park.
Admission to the park includes a night stay in their caravan park, annual admission, guided tours, and two maps.
Know Before You Go
one hour drive south of Cairns