We have 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.

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Paronella Park Tour castle and gardens with  fountains
Photo courtesy of Paronella Park

Paronella Park Address & Location

Paronella Park is located in Mena Creek, Queensland, Australia. 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 Day, from 9:00 am to 7:30 pm.

a large creek with gardens and old historic castle

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.

A Helpful Paronella Park Tour Review 2021
Photo courtesy of Paronella Park

Paronella Park Tour Price and Tickets

For up to date pricing and tickets, click here. We use Viator or GYG as they are the same price as booking direct, but they offer free cancellation up to 24 hours before most tours, which is useful when travel is so volatile.

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 45 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 be show you the secrets and delights of Paronella Park at night – tours leave at 6:15 pm. The duration is approximately an hour.

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 45-minute 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.

A Helpful Paronella Park Tour Review 2021

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. 

Book a combo ticket through Get Your Guide.

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.

Flights

plane flying over a beach

I use different sites to try and get the best possible price for flights.

First I visit matrix.itasoftware.com to get an idea of the cheapest dates, but you can’t book through this site.

Next I compare the cost of flights with Trip.com and try different routes.

Accommodation

A Helpful Paronella Park Tour Review 2021

I mainly use Booking.com for accommodation as they consistently have the lowest rates with free cancellation on most properties.

Car Hire

black car

To compare rental car company prices, I use Rentalcars.com. They are the world’s biggest car rental site, comparing all main brands including Europcar, Budget, Ace, Hertz, Avis, and Alamo.

Travel Insurance

A Helpful Paronella Park Tour Review 2021

Don’t travel anywhere without travel insurance, it’s not worth the risk.

Travel insurance: simple & flexible

You can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from over 130 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

Travel Information & Guides

This Australia Travel Guide, which includes all essential information and tips, will help with the planning of your holiday to this beautiful country.

For more things to do in Queensland, check out this Queensland Travel Guide.


FAQ

Hoe old is Paronella Park?

Paronella Park opened in 1935, making it 86 years old as of 2021.

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.

If you found our Paronella Park Tour review helpful, please consider booking through one of our links. It won’t cost you anything but will help towards the cost of running this site. Thank you 🙂

a suspension bridge over a beautiful waterfall cascading into a creek

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33 Comments

  1. I can see the Moorish architecture which is so beautiful! What a great backstory to it all and I’m glad it wasn’t demolished to make room for some modern monstrosity. It looks like it has its own ecosystem with the falls and tropical plants, and no doubt, endemic species.

    1. I loved the Moorish architecture of Paronella Park too as it reminded me so much of Europe.

  2. The place looks beautiful! It’s wonderful that the Evans restored it. The waterfalls and gardens sound absolutely amazing! I would love to see it someday.

  3. I’m sure Paronella Park was not easy to restore after the repetitive damage over the years. Respect to the current owners for all the hard work I’m sure that went into it. Looks like a great place to visit!

    1. It must have very hard work to rebuild Paronella Park but it’s great to see a piece of history restored.

  4. Paronella Park is a nice surprise and we didn’t expect to see this in Australia. This truly is a beautiful park with a nice Spanish influence. I think the haunted castle adds something extra but I hate bats 🦇!

    1. I hate bats too and I must admit that I did get a bit freaked out by them haha

  5. What a fab place to visit! I love the history behind it and the way it has been preserved. So great to have that link with the past. Hope it does not suffer any more mishaps. That is really forward thinking to have a free pet sitting service. Not heard of this at attractions before.

  6. Vanessa Shields says:

    What a lovely park and story on how it came to be! It’s sad that it didn’t stay in the family but very cool that the new owners have put the love back into it. It really endured some harsh meetings with Mother Nature and hopefully no more. I’d love to visit this beautiful spot one day. 😁

    1. I agree but happy that it has been restored and the story and dreams kept alive.

  7. What an amazing place! I love the story behind it and I’m adding it to my list. Maybe moving it to the top of my Australia list!

    1. Thanks Kasia. Paronella Park is in a beautiful part of Australia and recommend the whole of tropical north Queensland.

  8. What a beautiful and unique park! You’re so right about it being romantic, I’d want to do the dream continues tour with my other half; he’s an architect so I know he’d enjoy this.

    1. If he likes architecture, then I’m sure he would love Paronella Park Lisa.

  9. This sounds like a great place to spend the afternoon. I love the history of the place and glad to see it’s been restored to it’s original state. I’d love to wander around here someday!

    1. Thank you Stefanie, the history and story behind Paronella Park is beautiful.

  10. John Quinn says:

    I certainly wouldn’t expect to find a castle like this in Australia. Or any castles in fact. It’s nice to see that it is kept going as a public amenity. Having a ghost is another plus too.

      1. I can’t wait to be able to travel again, even within Australia/. It is just so uncertain at the moment with borders keep closing.

    1. The Paronella Park tour is really worth doing to see the best of this castle.

  11. Wow what a special place with an interesting history! I can’t believe all the misfortune that’s come it’s way! It looks so incredible now though. I’d love to visit!

  12. I have never heard of it with all my time in Queensland what a beautiful place.

    That waterfall alone would make for a great trip.

    Great back story too not much restoration goes on these days its great to see and keep the name alive.

    1. I agree. It’s wonderful that the current owners decided to restore rather than bulldoze.

  13. I love Paronella Park. I’d go as far as saying it’s my Queensland happy place. The natural beauty, the ruins, the fountains, the tunnel of love – it’s just so enchanted. Love the photos too!

    1. Thank you so much! Happy to hear that I’m not the only one that adores Paronella Park and the story behind it.

  14. What a wonderful story, and so good that it had a happy ending with the restoration of the park. I’ve never heard of it before so would love to visit, especially with the Spanish links. If José is indeed still ‘present’ in the place, I reckon he must be pretty chuffed with his legacy and how it’s being looked after 🙂

    1. I’m sure he would be. It’s not old but European standards but still nice to see and hear the story and history behind the beautiful architecture.

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