If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, there’s no way I would have believed there was a Spanish castle in the middle of North Queensland.
Built by Jose Paronella; who migrated from Spain to Australia in 1913, the castle is located in Mena Creek; around 20 minutes south west of Innisfail.
Jose, who left his fiance Matilda in Spain; with promises of returning once he had secured monies and land, came to Australia to prosper a new life. After falling in love with the land around Mena Creek and with the dream of building a Spanish influenced park, he finally had monies to purchase some land, before heading back to Spain to marry.
To his shock, when he returned back to Spain, Matilda had married someone else. Heartbroken, Jose was determined to return back to Australia with a wife, so he married Matilda’s younger sister Margarita and returned back to Australia with his new wife.
In 1935, Jose dream was completed and the park opened to the public, Sadly Jose passed away with cancer 1948, leaving the castle to his wife and 2 children. The park passed from one family member to another, until it was finally sold off in 1977. Slowly the park circummed to one tragedy after another, starting with a fire in 1979; which swept through the castle, leaving only the walls and the turret as a reminder of what had once been.
It was as if the castle itself was cursed from the loss of the Paronella family. Over the course of the next 20 years, the park was severely damaged from cyclones and floods, before it finally fell into disarray and nearly lost from history. Until 1993, when Mark and Judy Evans; the current owners, rediscovered what was almost lost.
If your visiting Cairns, do yourself a favour and make the trip to Paronella Park, you won’t regret it. My partner and I had heard you could also take a night walk throughout the park, so we opted to visit the park at lunch, so we could wander the grounds in the day and at night. There is no time limit either, which is great as you can enjoy each moment spent there and really take your time. There is a small cafe, so we opted to take a guided lunch tour, followed by a light lunch before heading out on our own to enjoy the grounds at a leisurely pace. It’s a photographers haven really, so make sure you have plenty of camera memory.
At night, the park came alive with guided lights to help you navigate through the park. Even fireflies came out to play amid the trees. It certainly is a truly magical place and a testament to the new owners who have brought Jose dream back to life.