Redcliffe Pier

Saturday, June 29, 2013

THE STORY OF A SPANIARD'S DREAM IN FNQ

In Far North Queensland's jungle there are the remains of a Spanish castle in a place called Paronella Park. Ever since I heard about this place I have wanted to visit it. On our recent trip to FNQ we did exactly that, thanks to our travel buddy Ann for organising it. Unfortunately it was a dull and wet day.
Overlooking Paronella Park from the swinging bridge above the Mena Falls.

The story of this castle is fascinating. I hope you have time to read it.
In 1913 José Paronella left his fiancée Matilda in Spain and sailed to Australia to find a better life for himself and Matilda. He arrived in Innisfail just south of Cairns. He worked hard on the sugar cane fields and then created his wealth buying , improving and selling cane farms over the next 11 years. While travelling through the beautiful rainforest he found a spectacular place on the Mena River beside the beautiful Mena Falls for his dream to build a castle where he could entertain large numbers of guests. His dream included a ballroom, a movie theatre, tennis courts, a swimming pavilion, cafe, boating, picnic areas and magnificent gardens. 
He returned to Spain to marry his Matilda but alas she had married another. Determined to sail back to Australia with a bride, he married Matilda's younger sister, Margarita. One year later, in 1929, the happy newlyweds purchased the land for José's dream.













Firstly he built the 'Grand Stairway" to shift building materials from the lower level to the upper level where he hand built a stone cottage to live in while he built his dream.

Then he and his work crew set about building an entertainment area. It included a movie theatre which was converted into a grand ballroom on weekends with live bands and a massive mirror ball reflecting pink and blue lights.

 At the bottom of the stairs he built a picnic area with concrete tables and benches. You can see them better in the first photo which I took from the suspension bridge above the Mina Falls. He also had built a diving tower here but it doesn't exist today. In 1933 José built a hydro electric power plant by the side of the falls which has been renovated today and supplies the power for the now tourist park.

Also on the lower level José built refreshment rooms/pavilion and change rooms for swimmers. A fountain which is working again and tennis courts.

José made a Lover's Lane which enters a tunnel dug by hand. It leads to the delightful Teresa Falls which he named after his daughter.

7000 trees were planted on the 13 acre property and it is a delight to walk through these gardens which includes  Palm Grove,  Bamboo Forest and The Meadow. The avenue of huge Kauri Trees tower over the forest.

José also made a museum with a collection of guns, timbers, coins and dolls. he opened his home and castle to the public in 1935.

In 1946 the park and pavilion were damaged by floods but the Paronella's repaired and replanted and opened for business in 6 months.

José passed away in 1948 leaving Magarita and daughter Teresa and son Joe as custodians of his dream. Paronella Park was sold in 1977.

In 1979 the castle was destroyed by fire except for the stone work. In 1986 a cyclone almost ruined what was left.

In 1993 Judy and Mark Evans rediscovered the almost lost park and envisaged reviving José's dream with his appreciation of beauty and warm hospitality. They bought the property and they are returning it to its former glory but staying true to its historic and eco values. They have also had damage from 2 cyclones. 







Too soon it was time to board the bus and head back to Cairns a 45 min drive. But first I braved the swinging bridge to look over the Mena Falls and to take the first shot on this post.







33 comments:

  1. Fascinating, indeed! I loved it. However, I'm doubting that I could walk over that suspension bridge. Maybe. Oh yeah. I could do it. :)

    Great history.

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  2. hi Diane, we went in May and unfortunately it was pouring with rain all day. the weather was dreadful. we toured the park rather quickly. i didn't even know there was a museum on the grounds. our tour guide was in a hurry. apparently there was a crocodile sighted the day before near the waterfall. we didn't see him. :) we saw lake barrine and surrounding areas. it was the most delightful day despite the weather. we drove back to cairns in the dark with the rain heavier than ever. it was a great tour. i'm enjoying your photos as we went to most of these places and the weather was kinder to you i think. it would be lovely to see it all again in nicer weather. thanks for sharing

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  3. What an awesome park to visit. the swinging bridge over the falls looks neat. It must have been a fabulous place in its day. Sorry about the cyclones, it would be nice to see it restored. Wonderful photos, Diane!

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  4. I've been following your travels and delighting in seeing so many fabulous N.Q. spots highlighted. Paronella Park is an oddity, but such a fascinating thing. I've been there several times over the years, and have always found it such a sad sight. I hope one day it does get restored to some of its former glory.

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  5. it would be great if someone could completely restore it to the original condition, what a magnificent place it would be! the love story reminds me of some song lyrics by stills - "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with"

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  6. A friend visited the Park and was very negative about it, so although you have described it very well, did you both like it?

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  7. A man and his dream :) Saw the story on TV a while back.

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  8. This is a beautiful place....good they kept the story and the place alive

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  9. Wonderful story ! A Spanish castle in Australia ! Who would have believed that ! It must have been very beautiful, even now you can see it !

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  10. I am surprised how beautiful the waterfalls are.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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  11. What a lovely story ... Jose was a man on a mission who accomplished SO much but I don't blame Matilda for marrying another, 11years is a long time to wait. How nice the present owners are restoring it to it's original glory.

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  12. Wonderful story So happy to hear ithis treasure is being loved and restored.

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  13. Oh I love this place the history the broken heart and the beauty makes it worth the trip I am sure. Incredible. B

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  14. What a beautiful and fasanating place I also would love to see this place you visit some amazing places

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  15. I really enjoyed that visit. It was a lovely surprise because I knew nothing of this place.

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  16. We didn't go there this time but your mention of the mirror ball has me thinking I must have gone there as a kid in the late 60s. I remember a mirror ball.

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  17. What a story, all those damages by nature and he was building again and again and then died. He never could really enjoy all his work.

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  18. What an amazing place. Such great shots!

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  19. A wonderful story Diane. I hope it is finally restored to it's former glory. Beaut pics.

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  20. Wow --what a fabulous place. I'd love to have that one.. Those waterfalls are amazing. Too bad the first gal didn't 'wait' for her man to come and get her. BUT--Sounds like the sister was available --and became a great wife and mother...

    Glad someone bought the property and is restoring it... BUT--sounds like Mother Nature is not nice to them!!!!

    So glad you saw this and shared it with us.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  21. FASCINATING! And now I have another place to add to my ever-growing list of places I must see when I finally get to Australia!

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  22. Wonderful post Diane! Old ruins to me are very romantic. I'm glad things worked out for Jose but what did he expect - I know I wouldn't have waited eleven years. :)

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  23. wow, what a fascinating park to visit. just makes want to go there.
    love the falls.
    totally enjoyed the walk.
    thanks for taking us along with you.

    lovely shots, too.

    xoxo

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  24. I think it's wonderful that José's dream is coming back to life. The amount of work that went into the construction of this palace and park is mind-boggling. I hope there are no more visits from cyclones for a very long time.

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  25. What a wonderful story and I hope that the renovations do get done. It must be a bit distressing to do work and then it all get wiped out by a cyclone! Keep well Diane

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  26. It has an almost 'fairytale' look about it Diane, What a very fascinating trip to take, I would love to do it..thanks so much for taking us along and relating the story behind this amazing building.

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  27. This is quite the place and what a story to go with it... the moral of the story, one sisters loss is another sisters dream come true! How could it not be living in paradise and a palace?

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  28. Great shots Diane and thanks for sharing this fascinating background to a remarkable, visionary man and the realisation of his dream. Good to hear others are wanting to restore it appropriately. (Thanks for stopping by my blog again)

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  29. Spectacular photos to illustrate a great story! I wonder what the guys first fiancé thought of her sister's luck!

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  30. Wow, what an amazing story. Really enjoyed that and the photos made it come to life. Thanks again Diane!
    Denise
    An English Girl Rambles

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  31. What an amazing story and place. I do love getting these glimpses of things I've never heard of before.

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