Your Guide To Paronella Park – Camping Options, Tours, History

Published Categorized as Australia Travel, Destinations, Queensland Travel, Travel Blog
Paronella Park
Paronella Park

This guide will include everything you need to know about Paronella Park – camping / accommodation options, tour information, admission prices and inclusions, and the history of the park. If you haven’t been yet, add it to your bucket list as it is a truly magical experience! It is easy to see why TripAdvisor has named it as one of Australia’s best tourist attractions.

READ MORE: MOTORHOME LIFE: THE ULTIMATE 1 MONTH ROAD TRIP FROM BRISBANE TO CAIRNS


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on our affiliates / advertisers links and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but at no extra cost to you. AND, many times, you will receive an offer. Win/win! The products and services we write about and mention are the ones we love. We only recommend items that we feel are of good quality and would be helpful to our readers. While we pay for our travels out of our own pockets, these small commissions do assist in keeping us on the road. Thank you!


“Paronella Park: Music, Migration and the Tropical Exotic.”

– Annie Mitchell, Southern Cross University –

What is Paronella Park?

Paronella Park is a heritage-listed tourist attraction located at Mena Creek, Queensland, Australia, just 120 kilometres south of Cairns. Covering five hectares of land next to Mena Creek Falls, Paronella Park is a mystical wonderland, complete with Spanish-style castle, and tranquil waterfalls, bridges and tunnels.  With a lush rainforest made up of 7,500 tropical plants and trees, it’s no wonder it has earnt its place as one of North Queensland’s premier tourist attractions.

The park has been the location for a number of movies including:

  • Sniper released in 1993 (from the 30 minute mark)
  • Celeste released in 2018
  • Traps released in 1994
Paronella Park - The Falls
Paronella Park – The Falls

Paronella Park Information

Location

Address: 1671 Innisfail Japoon Road, Mena Creek – Queensland, Australia  


How to Get There

If travelling south from Cairns, take the Old Bruce Highway after Innisfail (instead of turning right) and head towards Mena Creek.

If coming from the opposite direction from Townsville, take the ‘Silkwood’ exit on the Bruce Highway and follow Canecutter Way.

Paronella Park is:

  • 1 hour 30 minutes from Cairns (120 kms)
  • 3 hours from Townsville (280 kms)
  • 20 minutes from Innisfail (20 kms)
  • 30 minutes from Kurrimine Beach (32 kms)
  • 45 minutes from Mission Beach (46 kms)
  • 50 minutes from Millaa Falls (65 kms)
  • 1 hour 20 minutes from Atherton (105 kms)
image 7

Opening Hours

The park is open every day of the year (except Christmas Day) from 9:00am to 7:30pm.


Where to Eat

There are 2 options for getting a meal at Paronella Park:

  1. Eat at the park’s Café on the Deck – Open daily, enjoy fresh food i.e. sandwich, wrap, cakes, and a refreshing fruit smoothie (Top Tip: try the locally sourced tea or banana smoothie made with bananas from a local plantation).
  2. Head just up the road for a pub meal on the veranda of The Mena Creek Hotel – Only 200 metres from the park, this traditional Queenslander-style country pub is open from midday until 8:00pm, and serve hearty meals at a good price.
  3. Once you have purchased your ticket, you are more than welcome to use the park’s facilities to enjoy a picnic and bring your own food / drinks.

Paronella Park History

José Paronella immigrated to Australia from Catalonia in northern Spain in 1913 after hearing there was plenty of work going on Sydney’s emergent railways. But his spirit and dreams were never going to be pinned down under the scheduled existence of labouring on the railroads.

He settled in Innisfail shortly after and worked hard for 11 years creating his wealth by buying, improving and selling sugar cane farms. In 1924 he returned to Spain and married Margarita in 1925. The trip back to Australia was their honeymoon.

José first saw this 13 acres of virgin forest alongside Mena Creek Falls in 1914. He eventually purchased it in 1929 for £120 and started to build his pleasure gardens (or adult theme park) and reception centre for the enjoyment of the public.

The first structure he built on the land was the Grand 47 Step Staircase, to facilitate the carrying of the river sand to make the concrete. Rom the lower level to the upper level.

They hand built a cottage to live in out of stone, and then moved on to his dream of building a castle!

José and his work crew laboured with unswerving determination, until, in 1935, the Park was officially opened to the public.

The Movie Theatre transformed on weekends into a huge ballroom with live bands who entertained the crowds. The Ballroom came complete with a mirror ball covered in 1270 tiny mirrors, suspended from the ceiling and reflecting a dazzle of pink and blue lights. This became a popular venue for dances and parties.

Surrounding their home and castle, more than 7000 trees were planted including the magnificent Kauris lining Kauri Avenue.

In 1933, North Queensland’s first Hydro Electric generating plant was commissioned to supply power to the 5 hectare Park.

The Paronellas invited everyone to the movies on Saturday night, built two tennis courts behind the Refreshment Rooms out of crushed termite mounds, a pavilion with turret-topped balconies, and changing cubicles for swimmers.

The concrete slab tables forming the lower Tea Gardens and the swimming pool both proved extremely popular, as they still do today. The avenues and paths were well laid out with the familiar shaped planters which are still to be seen wherever you go in the Park.

Paronella Park - Camping, Tours, Costs, History
Paronella Park – Camping, Tours, Costs, History

In 1946, a mass of logs from a clearing upstream dislodged when the first rains of the Wet Season came. The whole mass began to move downstream until it piled up against a railway bridge a few hundred metres from the Castle. Water backed up until the weight broke the bridge, and the entire mass descended on the Park. The downstairs Refreshment Rooms were all but destroyed, the Hydro was extensively damaged, as was the Theatre and Foyer.

Undaunted, the Paronellas began the task of replanting and rebuilding. The Park was open again for business six months later and alive with people again.

In 1948, José died of cancer, leaving Margarita, daughter Teresa, and son Joe, to carry on. In time, Teresa married and eventually moved to Brisbane with her husband. Joe married Val in 1952, and they had two sons, Joe (José) and Kerry.

Renovations and maintenance meant there was always plenty of work, and the floods of 1967, 1972 and 1974 further added to the load.

In 1967 Margarita died, and in 1972, Joe died, leaving Val and the two boys to continue the hard working tradition and keep José’s dreams alive.

The Park was sold out of the family in 1977 and in 1979, a fire swept through the Castle leaving only the turret and the walls.

In 1993, Mark and Judy Evans (the current owners), bought the park with the idea of reviving José’s dream. Since then, paths have been uncovered, buildings repaired, trees identified and a museum created in the original family cottage.


Map of Paronella Park

Map of Paronella Park

Paronella Park Prices – Tickets and Admission

Ticket prices:

  • Adult – $47.00
  • Child (5-15 years) – $26.00
  • Concession – $42.00
  • 2 Adults + 2 Children – $136.00
  • 2 Adults + 3 Children – $146.00

Tickets are valid for two years, and include the following:

  • Souvenir Guide Book / Map
  • Botanical Guide – 16 page self-guiding Flora and Fauna guide with map
  • A free night at the on-site campsite
  • Fish food to feed the fish and turtles in the creek
  • The Dream Continues Tour
  • The Darkness Falls Tour
  • The Hydro Tour
Paronella Park - Feeding the Local Turtles
Paronella Park – Feeding the Local Turtles

Paronella Park Tour

The Dream Continues Tour

The Dream Continues tour departs every 30 minutes between 9:30am and 4:30pm.

This 45 minute guided tour of the eco-accredited and heritage-listed park sets the scene for your visit. Be guided through the park’s many highlights, hear countless stories about the park’s original founder and owner, José and his family, and their amazing journey towards making Paronella Park what it is today.

Be amazed at the incredible architecture, tropical gardens, wildlife, the onsite hydro-electric plant (North Queensland’s first), and a museum delving into the rich history of the location.


The Darkness Falls Tour

This 1 hour tour is included in your ticket price, and starts at 6:15pm every evening. Bookings are essential.

We loved The Dream Continues Tour during the day, but the park at night is a “must” experience. The Darkness Falls Tour offers a unique insight into the secrets and delights that only come out once the sun goes down. Two sections of Paronella Park are floodlit at night (courtesy of the restored hydro-electric generator); the waterfall and lower refreshment room.

In the evening, the lighting on the flowing water is magical, and allows the natural beauty of the waterfall to be appreciated in a new and unique way.

Visitors carefully descend the ‘Grand Staircase’ by torchlight and make their way to the illuminated lower refreshment rooms. Once seated in the manicured gardens surrounded by exotic plants, the light show started set to music from a local family group, a multi-award winning quartet The String Family (mother, daughter, son, and father). This was a wonderful way to end our evening in this amazing place.

To add to the atmosphere, everyone gets a gift at the end of the night tour. We were give a piece of stone that broke off from the Paronella Park castle during Cyclone Larry in 2006. This was accompanied by the reminder to follow our dreams, just like José Paronella did, and the hope that just like his, our dreams may come true.

Top Tip: The lighting on the ruins creates unbeatable photo opportunities, so have your camera ready.

Paronella Park - The Darkness Falls Tour
Paronella Park – The Darkness Falls Tour

The Hydro Tour

Tours run at specified times (check with staff upon arrival) but ensure you make a booking as places are limited.

Paronella Park is home to North Queensland’s first river driven hydro-electric generator.  Commissioned in 1933 and refurbished in 2009, this generator provides power to the entire park. Yet another example of José’s forward thinking.


Self-Guided Botanical Walk

Included in your ticket price is a Souvenir Guide Book and a 16 page Botanical Guide detailing the park’s incredible flora and fauna guide. Use the included self-guided map to explore the gardens and waterways. The plants and trees such as maple, Kauri pine, walnut, orchids, palms, ferns and lilies, are easily identified by signs throughout the park.


Visit the Museum

In José’s Cottage, located to the right of the park entrance, is a museum bursting with stories from the past. Discover the original projector that beamed films onto the hall walls and old signs advertising the park as ‘the prettiest spot on earth’. You can even flick through José and his wife Margarita’s family album.


View the Park from The Falls

Make sure to see Paronella Park from above. Enjoy the stunning views over the park from the suspension bridge above The Falls.  

Paronella Park - Suspension Bridge Across The Falls
Paronella Park – Suspension Bridge Across The Falls

Paronella Park – What to Bring

  • Camera – Paronella Park is a photographer’s paradise
  • Hat – most of the park is shaded but there are some areas which aren’t
  • Water Bottle – you can refill with cold water on the Tour and Café Deck
  • Sense of Adventure – prepare to be amazed by the sights and stories of this stunning place

Paronella Park – Camping / Accommodation

Paronella Park Camping Grounds

The park has six basic cabins for hire, plus a caravan and camping ground.

As we mentioned above, your price of admission includes one night for free at the Paronella Park camping area. This includes motorhomes, caravans, campervans, and tents. Bookings are essential to ensure you do not miss out!

We took advantage of this offer and stayed here in the motorhome for one night. We were allocated a site with a concrete slab in the shade of trees, and close to the park entrance.  The shower and toilet facilities were exceptionally clean and there were also laundry facilities and an outdoor kitchen area.

We enjoyed the luxury of wandering around the park before it opened and before the crowds arrived.


Paronella Park Cabins

 In addition to the caravan sites and camping ground, Paronella Park has six cabins for hire. These are available for $98 per night (in addition to the admission fee) and are suitable for two people each.

The cabins are equipped with linen, towels, a fridge, a kettle, a television, and air conditioning.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS AT PARONELLA PARK AND MAKE A RESERVATION!


The Mena Creek Hotel

If you are not travelling by motorhome, caravan or camping, you can stay 200 metres across the road from Paronella Park at The Mena Creek Hotel. All rooms have air conditioning while bathroom facilities are shared.

Prices range from $75 per room per night for a double, to $115 per room per night for a family of 5, (2 adults and 2-3 children).

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS AT THE MENA CREEK HOTEL AND MAKE A RESERVATION!


The Paddock – Mena Creek

The Paddock is a new accommodation offering for self-contained caravans and RV’s. Just 200 metres from Paronella Park, situated behind the Mena Creek Hotel, The Paddock is surrounded by lush cane paddocks and sweeping vistas to the nearby mountains.

A site for the night is included in your Paronella Park admission fee.

Advanced bookings are essential on (07) 4065-0000.


Mena Creek Flower House

Just a seven minute drive from Paronella Park, Mena Creek Flower House is a unique, beautiful property previously operating as a tropical flower farm. All cabins have the most amazing views over the always green rural country side.

They offer three modern and beautiful air-conditioned, stand-alone cabins to choose from. They are all near new, extremely comfortable, air-conditioned and ensuited.

Guests can enjoy the complimentary breakfast and roam the grounds of the property, which include a private swimming hole, a river, tropical rainforest and tropical fruit trees.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS AT THE MENA CREEK FLOWER HOUSE AND MAKE A RESERVATION!


Spurwood Springs – Top Hill Lodge

Situated just five minutes’ drive away from Paronella Park, Top Hill Lodge offers Affordable family accommodation (up to 10 people) in a modern self-contained private holiday house with a self-serve tropical breakfast.

Relax and enjoy the views over Mena Creek valley and watch the cattle calmly grazing and the wallabies nibbling at the sweet grasses. Kids can ride a horse, milk a cow, pat the sheep, pat ‘Nobby’ the huge friendly bullock, watch a working collie dog display and more.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS AT TOP HILL LODGE AND MAKE A RESERVATION!


Nearby Places to Stay

There are also many other alternative locations not too far away to stay in you are planning a visit to Paronella Park. Innisfail (20 minutes), Mission Beach (45 minutes) and Kurrimine Beach (30 minutes) have a variety of accommodation choices available.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS NEAR PARONELLA PARK AND MAKE A RESERVATION!


In Summary

Since opening its doors in 1935, Paronella Park has attracted curious visitors from all over the world looking for an experience they can’t get anywhere else.  As such, the original creator, José Paronella, succeeded in his mission to turn this special part of Australia into a magical destination for the public.

We hope this ‘Your Guide to Paronella Park – Camping Options, Tours, History’ has provided you with everything you need to know to add this to your next trip to Far North Queensland. Trust us, you will not regret it!

Have you been to Paronella Park? What did you like best and why?


Exit 45 Rating

The Exit45 Rating scale runs from a low of 1 to a high of 5 in each of the 9 categories.  As such, the higher the score out of 45, the better the Exit45 Rating.  N.B. These scores are our own personal opinions and are based on our experiences, budget constraints and what we love doing i.e. adventure seeking foodies who love snorkelling and water related activities.

Value for Money4.5
Cuisine4
Friendliness of Locals5
Ease of Language Barrier5
Climate4.5
Activities and Tours5
Ease of Travel4.5
Culture Barrier4.5
Safety5
TOTAL EXIT45 RATING42 / 45

Like This Article? Pin It!

YOUR GUIDE TO PARONELLA PARK – CAMPING OPTIONS, TOURS, HISTORY

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on our affiliates / advertisers links and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but at no extra cost to you. AND, many times, you will receive an offer. Win/win! The products and services we write about and mention are the ones we love. We only recommend items that we feel are of good quality and would be helpful to our readers. While we pay for our travels out of our own pockets, these small commissions do assist in keeping us on the road. Thank you!


PREVIOUS BLOG POSTS


TRIP PLANNERS FOR AUSTRALIA: RELATED BLOG POSTS

Want more info to help you plan your Australia trip? Check out all the articles we’ve written on travel in Australia below and continue planning your trip.

By Peta Wenzel

We are Peta (Australian) and Jonas (Swedish/Australian), a couple in our mid 40’s / early 50’s who have been travelling the world fulltime since January 2018. We met and lived on the Gold Coast, Australia and spent many evenings researching and watching YouTube vlogs about travel and dreaming of the day we would retire and be able to enjoy a lot more travel ourselves. Over the years, a number of events happened to family and friends and an opportunity arose which made us decide to not wait but to instead take a “Gap Year”. We are now in our 3rd year of travel and still hunger for new adventures and embrace the uncertainty that comes with full-time travel. If you want to know more about who we are, why we choose this lifestyle and how we do it, please follow our adventures and see how you can do it too.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.