Paronella Park Day Tour

The award-winning Paronella Park is the brainchild of a Spanish immigrant, José Paronella. He arrived in Australia in 1913 and created wealth by working hard for 11 years, buying, improving, and selling cane farms. (Read a brief history at the end of this post.) The last thing you expect to see in an Australian rainforest are castle ruins.

paronella park signEntrance to the suspension bridge, Mena Creek Hotel, and Caravan Park.

Main Pavillion

Free parking is available in front of the Paronella Park entrance.

paronella park entrance
Paronella Park entrance, ticket sales, and cafe are located just a few steps away from their parking lot.

Paronella Park offers informational day tours, sharing the park’s history and the man who built it. We gathered in the waiting area behind the gift shop and cafe. It was a comfortable space with clear directions for what we needed. Our guide, Mandy, was informative and had a dry sense of humor.

paronella park tour waiting area
The waiting area for the daytime Dream Continues tour is located outside behind the gift shop.

Before the tour started, the staff offered shuttle transfers to the lower level and assisted guests with any other needs. They were attentive, wanting the best experience for all.

paronella park umbrellasParonella Park offers umbrellas to shield you from elements, such as rain or the sun, at no extra charge.

Dream Continues Day Tour

Starting the tour, we walked through pathways and encountered José Paronella’s first built structure to the park; the Grand Staircase. It was built to transport materials from the lower and upper levels. Strolling down the steps, you get a peek into the beautiful remains, imagining the activities that once were.

paronella park steep stairs
At the beginning of the tour, you descend the Grand Staircase made up of a steep 47 steps. You may request with the staff a transfer to the lower area if this is a concern.

Mena Creek Falls

paronella mena falls
Mena falls at Paronella Park is an awe inspiring site.

The waterfall powers a hydroelectric generator, which José installed in the early 1930s. This was a first for Queensland and possibly the first in all of Australia. Paronella Park offers a Hydro Tour offering details and history of this river driven Hydro Electric Generator. We, unfortunately, missed this tour, but we look forward to taking it in the future.

Mena Creek Falls is a gorgeous location, and no matter what time you visit, it provides dazzling photos. Come early in the day, and this space is lit up by the shining sun. Or come at sunset and see the multi-colored sky behind the spotlighted falls.

paronella park picnic area
Picturesque settings within Paronella Park.
paronella park tour guide
Our tour guide, Mandy, knew the history of Paronella Park extremely well. She would share decades old pictures of the park while we were standing in that location and answer any questions.

The picnic area in front of Mena Creek Falls is one of the most beautiful locations at Paronella. Taking in the lush flora and fauna, the waterfall clapping sounds, and seeing the preserved tables created a sensory paradise. I could stay in this spot for hours!

paronella park stone tables
At the bottom of the Grand Staircase, you step right into the Picnic Area with views of the Mena Creek Falls and Suspension Bridge.

Walking through the park on tour was enjoyable but make sure you give yourself plenty of extra time to explore on your own afterward.

paronella park pathways
Lush flora and fauna line the timeless pathways as you wander the park. Paronella provides a guide with well written descriptions of the plants and trees if you choose to use it.

Teresa Falls

Exiting the once accessible Tunnel of Love, you will find a miniature waterfall name after José’s daughter, Teresa. It is quietly tucked back in the rainforest, giving opportunities for romantic gestures.

paronella park teresa falls
There is a second waterfall located at the park at the end of the Tunnel of Love. Teresa Falls is named after Jose Paronella’s daughter.

While on tour, our guide discouraged picture taking to keep us on schedule. I understood why, but if taking photos is important to you, consider the right time of day and additional time you’ll need at the park. We were disappointed because we had little time to run around and snap pictures before we lost daylight.

paronella park kauri avenue
Beautiful giants! There are over 7000 trees at Paronella, and these towering Kauri trees were added for a dramatic effect. The trunk pattern and colors inspired Australia’s military uniform.

Lower Refreshment Rooms

This area is one of the most photographed spots at Paronella Park. Capturing this beauty by the camera doesn’t do the ruins justice. Pay close attention to the textures and style of this structure. It is absolutely stunning. No wonder it is a hotspot for weddings and proposals. Take time to feel the love in the air!

paronella park overgrown staircase
Let your eyes feast on the colors created from the lush, overgrown foliage atop of the dark stone structures.
paronella park fountain day
The way the rainforest has been allowed to reclaim many of the features in the park creates a magical experience.

This fountain rests between the once refreshment rooms and where tennis courts and a children’s play area used to be. It is now the space for their evening show.

paronella park castle day
Castle ruins in the middle of a rainforest…Paronella Park.

Feeding Fish, Turtles, and Eels

With each ticket purchase into the park, you receive wildlife food to feed the animals. Our family enjoyed feeding the large swarms of fish,  the occasional freshwater eels, and turtles that were willing to battle it out to get the food.

paronella park feeding fish
With each ticket purchased, you will receive a bag of wildlife food to feed fish, eels, and turtles. The picnic area in front of Mena Creek Falls is the perfect place to feed them. Absolutely stunning!
paronella park eel fish
Standing on the banks of the Mena Creek, you can feed fish, eels, and turtles as they swim at you from the fresh water.

Throughout the park are hundreds of concrete planters. All of them were handmade by José using sand from the river and concrete from Germany. As you study the park structures, you may notice fingerprints and markings, adding to its character and preserving history. These planters help path the climb of the Grand Staircase.

paronella park grand staircase
The Grand Staircase was the earliest structure built at the park. Markers are embedded along the steps to show the height of water levels from many floodings.

The Castle

The Castle was once Paronella’s main pavilion, housing a theatre also used as a ballroom on the weekends. Many bands would come and play under the mirrored, spinning ball that scattered lights throughout the room. The kitchen and projection room, along with a trophy room, was also located in the castle.

paronella park ballroom
Paronella Park’s ballroom hall once hosted grand parties and weddings, dances, and showed movies. A large mirrored ball, the myraid reflector, bounced pink and blue lights onto the surroundings.
paronella park castle
The Castle: stone and wood work, maintaining original windows and shutters. Lower level was the kitchen. Upper level was the trophy room, projection room, and bathroom.
paronella park castle view
Side view of “the castle” from the museum’s platform.

Cottage Museum

The Cottage Museum was the handbuilt home of José and his family. It has been restored and used as the park’s museum, preserving relics recovered from the family. The museum is small, but a perfect stop to incorporate more past features into our ‘walk through time’.

paronella park cottage museum
The Cottage Museum was the 1929 hand-built stone home the Paronella family moved into on Christmas Eve. It is now a museum, housing artifacts and sharing the story of how Paronella Park came about.
paronella park projector
Stored and presented in the museum are the projection equipment that was used in the theatre, dishes, typewriters, an early “microwave”, a piano, and more.
paronella park museum inside
Inside the Cottage Museum located at Paronella Park.

Suspension Bridge

The suspension bridge crosses over Mena Creek Falls, giving a broader perspective of the park.

paronella park suspension bridge
The boys checking out the view from the suspension bridge

This is truly a beautiful place, and I wish we had more time to explore before the sunset.

You arrive not knowing what to expect and depart with memories you will cherish forever. -Paronella Park

We agree.

Tips:

  • Order your tickets online.
  • Look for deals and offers.
  • Pack sunblock and wear good walking shoes.
  • Plan your stay and take advantage of the different tour experiences.
  • Bring a high-quality camera to take stunning pictures both day and night.
  • Sign up for the 2-year membership that is included with your ticket.

Brief History:

José discovered lush, rainforest land and fell in love with Mena Creek Falls. He purchased this lot in 1929, moving his family there on Christmas Eve. Inspired by his grandmother’s stories about castles, he created a wonderland where people from all over the world would visit. During World War II, the soldiers would retreat to the park with endless nights of dancing and swimming near the falls. It was a popular location for shows, entertainment, and food. José created the first hydroelectric plant, providing all of the spectacular lights and needs of the park.

Paronella Park suffered major damage after a cyclone came to the Gold Coast, creating a dam out of broken trees and stopping the hydroelectric plant. The trees broke loose, crashing into and destroying most of Paronella Park. Determined to rebuild, José successfully restored the park, only for it to be devastated once again by fire.  After he died in 1967, the park traded hands between family members before being sold in 1977.  The park was later rediscovered and purchased by the current owners, Mark, and Judy Evans. Preserving the park’s beauty and intentions, the Evans worked hard with the Paronella family to bring back magic inside Paronella Park.

To learn more, visit www.paronellapark.com.au.

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