Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Paronella Park, Innisfail

This place has been recommended to us time and time again while we have been on the road. So it was on our definite list for when we were in Queensland.

Paronella Park was built by Jose Paronella, a spainish immigrant, who came to Australia to earn his fortunes and buy land on which he could build a beautiful castle for his spainish fiancé Matilda. He left her behind in Spain and came to Queensland where he worked hard cutting sugar cane to make enough money to fulfill their dream.

When he returned to Spain 12 years later to collect his girl….. he found… she had married someone else!! Not wanting to return to Australia empty handed he instead married her younger sister and he and his new bride headed back to Innisfail to start the park.

Jose and his wife built the park as an oasis for people to come and visit. All of the buildings were built by hand by Jose himself out of concrete he made using dirt from a tunnel he fashioned in the side of a hill.  He used old railway tracks to reinforce the buildings.

Back in the 1930s life was tough, and this park provided a fairytale escape for the hard workers of far north queensland and their families. There was a grand ballroom that had dances and showed movies on a big screen. A lake to row wooden row boats, gardens with tropical plants to expore, and because it was the first place in the area to have electricity due to Jose installing hydro electricity, they were able to have power to keep icecream. Therefore the  café with Queenslands first gelato bar (made by Joses wife) was very popular. There was jazz band concerts and tennis courts and swimming. It was very before its time and very European inspired.

During World War II Paronella Park became a popular hang out for American and Australian soldiers on their break. Ever the entrepreneur he later opened the tunnel he had created in the hill as a ‘tunnel of love’ and charged the soldiers a penny to take their sweetheart into the dark tunnel for some lovin time!

Unfortunately when the park was still a work in progress, Jose got really sick and died at a young age from a lung infection. The park was left to his wife and two children. His son took over the park and finalized Jose’s dream by finishing some of the water fountains and other bits and pieces. Then, as tragic as his fathers death, Joses son also died at the young age of 38 leaving behind a wife and two children.

His wife could not cope with the place on her own. And had to sell in the early 1970s. The park was over grown and due to new attractions in the area and the Bruce Highway bypassing the park, it all closed down and sat, dormant for many years.

In 1993 a family from south Australia were travelling through the area. Having dinner at the local pub one night they heard the story of the old overgrown park and decided, on a whim to buy it.

After several years of clean up and a $400,000 repair on the hydro electricity plant they opened the park to the public as a historical place to visit. Unfortunately the family didn’t have a lot of history on the area, apart from local gossip. So they weren’t able to offer accurate information and tours.

Then one day an old lady came to visit the park. She introduced herself to the new owners as Joses daughter! She was happy the park had reopened and was able to show them many features hidden amoung the gardens that they didn’t know existed. She also provided photographs, memorabilia and an accurate history of the park.

With all of this information, the addition of a small camping ground, a large café and the stunning grounds to show it is easy to see how this little piece of history has now become Queenslands number 1 tourist attraction.

What the place looked like in the 'olden days'

The grand ballroom. This was the venue for many a wedding back when the park was running. It burned down in 1979 so is now just for viewing 

I can't turn this pic around!! but it is of the beautiful karrie trees that are planted in the gardens. Did you know the bark of the karrie tree was the inspiration for the Australian army uniform or 'camo' as we call it 

The kids having a pic taken by the waterfall. Instead of saying cheese they had to say 'fat Amy'... inspired by pitch perfect 2 and gets them laughing!

The a grand staircase, 47 steps and all made by hand

The waterfall by day 
The waterfall by night (under spotlights)

Picnic area from the 1930s

The refreshment house by day

The refreshment house by night 
The change rooms from the 1930s. Look how small they are! goes to show how thin people were back then 

Kids and craig on the grand staircase

Moss covers everything 

Some of the lush tropical plants that make up the gardens at paronella park 

The lake which was used for recreation back in the day. Nowdays there are crocs that sometimes inhabit the area so no swimming

A view of the ballroom through the main cottage window. Kerry, are you impressed by my photograph skills??!!!

The drawbridge over the top of the waterfall, this was the original entrance to the park 

COST: $120 a family entry which includes: a day tour of the park, a night time tour of the park, a tour of the hydro electricity plant (adults only, so craig did this bit alone) and one nights free accommodation in the camp ground which was a powered site with toilets and showers plus BBQs.

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