I'd first heard about Paronella Park from a fellow blogger. I must say the pictures attracted me and it vaguely reminded me of what we'd seen in Europe a few months back. I did some more research and decided to add this destination to our Christmas holidays last year as we were going to Magnetic Island anyway.
[ADVERT]We drove about three hours from Townsville to Paronella Park, went to the park, stayed the night, and drove three hours back to Townsville, where we embarked on our Magnetic Island adventure. You might ask "Was six hours of driving worth it?"
The multi-award winning Paronella Park is located 120 kilometres south of Cairns (or 280km north of Townsville). It is a 13-acre park next to Mena Creek Falls with a castle, picnic areas at the lakeside, tennis courts, tunnels and bridges surrounded by a spectacular array of 7000 tropical plants and trees. Sounds fantastic doesn't it? I must warn you that some of the aforementioned features might be non-existent today, or might not be what you would expect.
Nevertheless, it's the history of Paronella Park that fascinates me. It was built by José Paronella, who sailed from Catalonia, Northern Spain, to Innisfail in 1913. His dream was to build a castle so for the next 11 years, he worked hard and finally purchased this 13-acre land in 1929. From then on, José and his crew worked hard to transform this land to something amazing and in 1935, Paronella Park was open to the public.
We decided to take advantage of the 45-minute guided walk in order to learn about the story of a Spaniard's dream while walking through the highlights of the park. Our first stop was the top castle, inspired by José's childhood memories of Catalonian castles. My husband and I wanted to go in, run around and play hide and seek, but unfortunately it wasn't allowed. Regardless, this really looked like a castle; in fact, a mini version of a European castle, in Australia.
After that, we went down the grand staircase to the picnic tables, where we got to feed the fish and see the waterfall. Part of me wished we did bring a picnic to have there. It was a really lovely area by the water with picnic tables and seats, though the seats weren't very comfortable. I could imagine myself going there on a Sunday afternoon to feed the fish, have a picnic and relax by the water with a book.
Our next stop was the lower refreshment rooms and it was one beautiful structure. This was where all the action took place. With tennis courts, a fountain, food service and Paronella Museum, where else would you want to be? We couldn't go into the refreshment rooms either, but still, it was quite impressive admiring it from afar.
These were the changing cubicles for the swimming pool on either side of the refreshment rooms. Males on one side and females on the other. Pretty cool right? These weren't fenced off so I stood in one of them (could be the male ones, for all I know).
Then we were shown Lovers Lane, Teresa Falls and Kauri Avenue. Each place had its own story and it was so intriguing to hear. What was also interesting was that this was where North Queensland's first hydro electric plant was built, which provides power for the entire park today. The castle has endured a fire, the refreshment rooms were once destroyed by a railway bridge, and the whole park has encountered two cyclones, yet it is still here for us to enjoy.
After the 45-minute tour ended we wandered around the park, took photos and just relaxed there for a while. Tickets include a guided walk through the highlights of the park, fish food, the night tour and, at the moment, are valid for 24 months. We would've loved to go back for the night tour, but were so tired from our drive and a big pub meal that we just lay on our bed.
Personally, I wish I didn't know so much about Paronella Park beforehand. I would've preferred to hear it first on the guided tour, then read more about it on their website. However, I was so excited that I'd combed through their website numerous times. Nevertheless, the story of Paronella Park is really beautiful and also quite inspiring. So was six hours of driving worth it? For me, definitely yes.
Information about Paronella Park, accommodation, food and location can be found on their website.