13 Things To Know About The Amazing Paronella Park In Cairns
Wondering whether it’s worth visiting Paronella Park in Cairns? With a $50 entrance fee, it might seem steep for many. We can 100% say it’s totally worth it, even if it means the cost will help keep this insanely magical place alive! Plus! Did we mention you can visit as many times as you like for two whole years after you’ve paid for one visit?!
You can book tickets to Paronella Park here, which includes access to return for FREE for 2 years!
Known as one of the best Cairns attractions, it’s been on my list to visit for years! When we finally visited recently, we were blown away by this absolute gem of a place. It’s a magical sight, and you’ll probably think you could have been transported to the Amazon, like we did! We’ve not seen anywhere like this in Australia before, which makes it for an exciting adventure.
There are a few things you should know to prepare you to make the most of this special place. And of course, if you’ve not heard of Paronella Park before, let us introduce you to another Australia bucket list place to visit.
Where Is Paronella Park?
Paronella Park is situated closest to Innisfail, being just a 20 minute drive away. We drove up from Mission Beach which took us 40 minutes to get to. If you’re coming from Cairns, it takes 1h30m and about the same time from Atherton.
1. The History Will Blow Your Mind
The history behind Paronella Park is so fascinating, it’s half of what really makes this place really interesting. In 1913, José Paronella arrived to Australia from Catalonia in Spain. He originally worked on farms cutting sugar cane, but always knew there was a better life waiting for him.
When he returned to Spain in 1924 to marry the love of his life, she had married someone else. So instead, he married her sister, Margarita. It was his dream to build his own castle and an adventure park to bring people together. When they returned to Australia a few years later, he bought 13 acres of scrub land in 1929 for £120. It was then, that he started to build a sight you won’t find anywhere else like it in Australia.
In the beginning, he built the grand staircase to help carry the river sand up the land to build his house. It’s an impressive staircase, one of which you’ll feel like it’s from an ancient land. At the top of the park, you’ll see his house is still there, in tact.
It took a good five or six years before Jose had the park ready to open to the public in 1935. As the park was situated off the old highway, it drew in thousands of tourists to enjoy the swimming pool, tea gardens, tennis courts on the ground of the castle, children’s playground and more. On Saturday nights they would show movies, and the ballroom was a favourite amongst locals for parties with a huge mirror ball suspended from the ceiling. José also built 7,000 trees around the park to highlight the features of the rainforest.
Abandoned For 15 years
Unfortunately in 1948 Jose passed away, leaving his wife Margherita to continue his dream on. With huge cyclones and floods sweeping through the park over the years, it became increasingly difficult to rebuild and keep the park alive. In 1977 the park was sold and a fire nearly burnt down the castle a couple of years later.
It was left untouched for nearly 15 years until an Australian couple, Mark and Judy Evans with their three kids, stumbled upon it. Locals thought they were mad for wanting to buy a derelict, crumbling old tourist park at the time, but they knew as soon as they saw it how much potential it had. In 1993, they decided they wanted to open the park up to encourage people to come and visit José Paronella’s achievement.
The Surprise Visit From José’s Daughter
Now here’s the interesting fact. On the first day of opening Paronella Park, José’s daughter Teresa turned up without anyone realising. When she introduced herself, she was able to re-tell José’s dream and Mark & Judy finally understood why Paronella Park is an important place people need to visit. She showed them how the grounds of the castle were the tennis courts, how her brother built the fountain, and how her father built 80% of the entire park himself.
It was then, that the new owners Mark & Judy understood how it had become their mission to keep José’s dream alive. Paronella Park is the number 1 tourist attraction in Cairns and with their hashtag, #thedreamcontinues, it is an amazing tribute to the legendary Spaniard.
Even José’s grandson who became the mayor of Atherton has helped fund tours to come to the Paronella Park, keeping the family park alive.
2. Meet The Owners
What we loved about the history of Paronella Park, is the fact that the new owner Mark Evans actually stands outside the front of Paronella Park to greet the guests almost everyday. We kinda regret not chatting to him when we were there because we were just blown away by the place.
3. Jump On The Free Tour
When you arrive at Paronella Park near Cairns, make sure you jump on the free tour around the grounds. Now, you might be a bit like me where guided tours aren’t really your thing, and you’d prefer to walk around in your own time. I get that. But, you really need to do the tour to appreciate and understand the beauty about this park.
When our guide took us around and showed us what each building was, and it makes you see it all in a totally different light. There are tours taking place every 30 minutes so you won’t have to wait long to go on one.
We visited just after Christmas and it was super hot. Even when you get into the park, it gets hotter the further you go into it. I actually arrived in shorts and t-shirt, but because the place is so amazing, I went back to the car and put my trusted red dress on to take some better photos so we could really make the most of the landscape.
Paronella Park is literally a photographer and Instagram lovers dream. There are so many spectacular photos to take here, you could spend hours and hours here.
When we first arrived, we had about 20 minutes to wait until the tour started, so we zipped around it in complete awe. This was a good opportunity to take some photos without the crowds. But, I quickly realised I needed to put something nicer on than my shorts and t-shirt. After the tour, I ran back to the car and put my trusted old Sportsgirl dress on so we could get some better photos.
The park is quite big, and it wasn’t heaving when we visited so we had plenty of opportunity to take some photos without anyone else in them anyway.
The main photo to take is at the famous castle, which is absolutely amazing. You could literally feel people dressed up to the nines, playing tennis here and enjoying eating an ice cream.
There are a couple of beautiful tree lined avenues at the park as well, which make for some beautiful photographs.
We also loved the Mena Creek Waterfall, which is a stunning waterfall you can walk over on the bridge. And of course, we loved the bamboo forest too!
6. Visit At Night Time
We didn’t do this, but we’ve heard the Paronella Park night experience is supposed to be absolutely amazing. The park is lit up with flood lighting and creates a dramatic effect for fantastic photography. Go on the night tour and learn more secrets about the park. I feel like there must be so many stories to be told about this place, it really is a feast for the eyes.
7. Or Visit One A Concert At Paronella Park
We have heard there are concerts held at Paronella Park. From opera to classical music, it makes a brilliant venue. We would totally go to one of the concerts if we aligned our visit with the right timing.
There is a cafe at Paronella Park where you can buy sandwiches and wraps, and there’s a shop at the entrance to buy gifts as well. You can also bring your own picnic to enjoy at the grounds as well, something we would have totally done! And of course, there are toilet facilities here on site too.
9. Stay At Paronella Park Campground Or In The Cabins
To make the most of your trip to Paronella Park, there is a campsite here you can stay at. If camping isn’t your thing, you can book one of the six cabins available which are clean modern rooms for two people.
10. Come Back For Free For The Next 2 Years!
Once you’ve bought your ticket, you can come back for FREE within 2 years! Make sure you get a pass from the reception before you leave so you can redeem it next time you visit.
We hadn’t heard about Mamu Tropical Skywalk until we literally saw the sign for it after our visit to Paronella Park. We were on our way into Atherton Tablelands, and decided to turn around and go and check it out. We didn’t really know what to expect, but we absolutely loved it. Even as it was raining and we were some of the only people there, we walked through the trees on the raised platform, admiring the epic views. We were in total awe of how amazing the experience really is.
As you walk along the board walk, there’s loads of signs highlighting the traditional owners of the land, something we really admired. The Aboriginal owners are respectfully highlighted throughout the walk, which made us appreciate it much more.
The owners of Paronella Park also own the Mamu Skywalk and do a combo ticket, so you can save money if you buy both. We didn’t do this so we ended up having to pay full price for both. To be honest, both Cairns tourist attractions are completely worth the money! We wanted to let you know about how both places are easily some of the best things to do in Cairns.
12. Visit Crawford Lookout Nearby
Down the road from Mamu Tropical Skywalk is the Crawford Lookout, which gives you another perspective of the rainforest, overlooking Wooroonooran National Park. As you look over to North Johnstone River, it’s an amazing sight, seen from the side of the main road. There’s a walking track from Crawford Lookout over to the stunning Wallicher & Tchupala Falls, which should take around 30 minutes to get to.
13. Get Ready To Tackle The Waterfall Circuit
After you’ve finished marvelling at Crawford Lookout, make your way to the waterfall circuit and check out the famous waterfalls in Cairns. With Ellinjaa Falls, Zillie Falls and the most famous waterfall in Cairns, Millaa Millaa Falls!
Whilst it was pouring when we went to see Zillie Falls, Elingaa Falls and Millaa Millaa Falls are definitely really beautiful! We saw a family in the car park at Elingaa Falls and they were debating about whether they could be bothered to walk down to the falls which was about a five minute walk. I totally understood where they were coming from as we wondered that loads during our trip, because the weather wasn’t great. But, they were glad I convinced them to go down there because it really is beautiful.
If you’re looking to have Millaa Millaa Falls to yourself, get there at sunrise. It was the busiest waterfalls in Cairns that we visited on our entire trip. I couldn’t help but just picture Peter Andre here at the falls, filming his music video for Mysterious Girl (yes, he actually did!). This Cairns waterfall is absolutely incredible, it almost doesn’t seem real!
How Long To Stay At Paronella Park
Wondering how long you should stay at Paronella Park? We literally thought we would spend about an hour there. It turns out, we spent about three hours here walking around and taking photos. You could easily spend longer as we had to continue on with our trip.
We hope our Paronella Park guide has inspired you to come and visit this magical hidden gem. When we last visit the area in 2015, we had no idea this park even existed. Don’t make the same mistake we did and go and visit this fascinating place.
Paronella Park is open every single day of the year (except Christmas day) from 9am – 7:30pm.
Address: 1671 Innisfail Japoon Rd, Mena Creek QLD 4871