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.
Entrance to the suspension bridge, Mena Creek Hotel, and Caravan Park.
Free parking is available in front of the Paronella Park entrance.
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.
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 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.
Mena Creek Falls
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.
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!
Walking through the park on tour was enjoyable but make sure you give yourself plenty of extra time to explore on your own afterward.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
The suspension bridge crosses over Mena Creek Falls, giving a broader perspective of the park.
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
- 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.
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.