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I’ve visited Paronella Park twice; it was so awe-inspiring that we wanted to show our children and for them to hear the romantic story of how it all began. To get a proper understanding of one of Queensland’s most popular tourist attractions, you should take the tour.
This Paronella Park Tour review also includes information to make the most of your time at this historic masterpiece.
Paronella Park Address & Location
Paronella Park is located in Mena Creek, Queensland. It is about 120 km south of Cairns and a 40-minute drive from Mission Beach.
The address of Paronella Park is 1671 Innisfail Japoon Rd, Mena Creek QLD 4871.
Paronella Park Opening Hours
Paronella Park is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Day, from 9:00 am to 7:30 pm.
Paronella Park Tour Price and Tickets
When you purchase your Paronella Park ticket, you have the choice to join a tour if you wish. Alternatively, you can walk around on your own. The cost is the same so I advise doing the tour as you will get so much more out of it.
The two Paronella Park tours are:
The Dream Continues Tour: A 30-minute guided walk takes you through the park’s highlights and tells the story of José Paronella’s dreams and vision. It departs every 30 minutes from 09:30 am until 4.30 pm.
The Darkness Falls Tour: Your tour guide will show you the secrets and delights of Paronella Park at night. The duration is approximately 45 minutes.
Your ticket is valid for 24 months, so you can return at any time if staying nearby.
Don’t miss out on this Paronella Park Tour; it was one of our favourite attractions on our road trip from Airlie Beach to Cairns.
Why do the Paronella Park Tour?
On the tour, a dedicated guide takes you on a journey to show the vision and determination of José Paronella. You get to see the stunning Spanish-inspired architecture, hidden paths, gorgeous tropical gardens, and the fully restored and operational hydro-generator. The tour guide also tells José’s life story and describes his hard work and perseverance to bring his dream to life.
Don’t miss the small museum, the suspension bridge over Mena Creek Falls, and the turtle viewing area and fish feeding (fish food included in the ticket price). There’s a colony of micro-bats that live in the Tunnel of Love, which freaked me out haha, and a variety of birds can be heard while wandering through the gardens.
Some people think the castle is haunted, and the ghost of José roams the grounds and house at night. As we visited during the day, we cannot attest to the accuracy of this. Maybe you can let me know if you visit at night.
The cost is the same to enter the estate and you have the option to explore more after the tour.
Paronella Park Story & History
Paronella Park was the vision of José Paronella, who arrived from Catalonia in Spain in 1913. He began working on sugar cane farms then moved into buying, improving, and reselling the cane farms.
In 1924, José moved back to Spain and married Margarita. The trip back to Australia was their honeymoon. In 1929, he purchased 13 acres of scrubland along Mena Creek for £120 and began to build gardens and a reception centre for the public to enjoy.
Inspired by Spanish Moorish architecture, the house was built first followed by the castle. The house was constructed from stone but the rest of the structures were made out of reinforced concrete from old railway lines. The concrete was covered with plaster, which they put on by hand. Fingerprints were made in the wet concrete to remind them of all their arduous work.
After years of hard labour, the Park was opened in 1935. It became a popular movie theatre as well as a function centre for parties and dances. When the movies stopped in the 1960s, the Hall became a fashionable place to hold weddings.
José planted over 7000 trees, which make up the beautiful tropical gardens. Teresa Falls, which is spring-fed, is named after his daughter. The gardens also have beautiful small bridges over the creek, with parts having cascades over rocks.
The Hydro-Electric plant, built in 1933, supplied power to the whole park and was the first of its kind in North Queensland.
The park had its share of disasters; the first being in 1946 when a huge flood extensively damaged the land and buildings. The Refreshment Rooms were beyond repair, so José moved them upstairs. The remaining parts of the castle were repaired, and gardens replanted, ready to re-open to the public.
José died of cancer in 1948, leaving behind Margarita and their children, Teresa and Joe. Teresa moved to Brisbane with her husband, while Joe remained at Paronella Park with his wife, Val, and sons (Joe & Kerry). It was hard work keeping the park up, especially with the floods of 1967, 1972, and 1974. Margarita died in 1967, followed by Joe in 1972.
Val and her sons sold the property in 1977, and sadly, a fire swept through the castle in 1979. The park also had to deal with nature’s force, with Cyclone Winifred in 1986 and flooding in 1994.
The current owners, Mark and Judy Evans, bought Paronella Park in 1993 with the hope of restoring the park to the vision originally created by Jose Paronella. They have lovingly restored, not rebuilt, to remain true to José’s dream. In 2009, the A$450,000 restoration of the old hydro-electric system was completed. It once again provides all of Paronella Park’s electricity requirements.
The park gained National Trust status in 1997 and has won several Tourism Awards, including Eco Australia’s GECKO award for Ecotourism in 2011.
Where to eat
The Paronella Park ‘Cafe on the Deck’ is open every day for lunch and morning & afternoon tea. It serves fresh food, including sandwiches, wraps, cakes and slices, and smoothies.
You can also take a picnic to enjoy in the grounds of the park.
Alternatively, The Mena Creek Hotel is a five-minute walk away.
Other things to do
Why not combine Paronella Park with a visit to Mamu Tropical Skywalk ? This elevated walkway and tower is managed and operated by Mark and Judy Evans as well.
The skywalk allows visitors to explore the rainforest from the forest floor to the canopy and passes through one of the largest remaining continuous stands of complex vine forest on basalt soils in the Wet Tropics.
Accommodation near Paronella Park
Included in the entrance/ tour price is one night’s stay at the Paronella Caravan Park. You must book in advance as it gets busy. Apart from camping and caravan sites, on-site cabins are also available to book. If you stay here, you can do both the day and night tours which offer a different perspective.
The closest private accommodation to Paronella Park is Mena Falls Guest House, a beautifully renovated circa 1950s church. This 2-bedroom, fully self-contained house features unlimited free WIFI, Netflix, air conditioning, Smeg appliances, a Bose Sound Dock, TV, and Xbox One/TV in the kids’ room.
Paronella Park FAQs
How old is Paronella Park?
Paronella Park opened in 1935.
How long should you allow to visit Paronella Park?
It would be best to allow 3 hours to visit Paronella Park.
Who owns Paronella Park?
Mark and Judy Evans currently own Paronella Park.
Is Paronella Park dog-friendly?
Due to Paronella Park being eco-certified, dogs are not allowed into the park. Contact the park on +61 7 4065 0000 as they were offering a free pet-sitting service while you take the tour.
For more things to do in Queensland, check out this Queensland Travel Guide.