This was one of the highlights of our holiday and a bit special to me especially because I remember visiting this magical place as a kid when my family headed north for a holiday. I've always had memories of 'castles in the forest', like the lost cities of South America. You see ... that's EXACTLY what Paronella Park is! :0) In 1929, Spanish immigrant Jose` Paronella bought 13 acres of native scrub/rainforest on Mena Creek ... and proceeded to build a dream! Jose` set out to build a pleasure garden that would provide a magical destination for local families to enjoy the outdoors and he dotted it with fantastical structures and buildings made with old railway line, concrete and clay plaster. You'll find more of the story of Jose` and his dream HERE ... it's well worth a read ... and reminds us all what can be achieved if someone has a dream and the drive to make it reality! :0) To cut the story a little shorter for those who don't have time to hop across, the park was hit my a number of natural disasters, deaths in the family, a fire and after a period of being completely abandoned, was bought by the current owners who have been working hard to restore the dream. Some of the structures are now off-limits due to deterioration making them unsafe, but it's still a magical place to visit! :0)
So ... onto some photos ...
If you look closely, you'll see people in amongst the trees ... they're climbing the grand staircase, which was the first thing Jose` built. And let me tell you there are a LOT of stairs in that thing that you have to climb down and back up ... the return trip being the toughest, of course!! The tables at the bottom of the photo are in a picnic area beside the creek ...
... which features this SPECTACULAR waterfall, which helped power the first hydro-electric plant in north Queensland. Jose` was an innovative bloke! :0)
At several spots on the creek, the local fish are used to being fed by the hundreds of visitors to the park ... my Beloved Geek boy was teasing the poor fishies by throwing one pellet at a time in to cause a frenzy ... some little boys never truly grow up, do they! :0)
And here is one of Jose`s castles in the forest. I have a clear memory of my brother and I climbing this tower when we visited in the 70's. (Oops! Showing my age there! Tee! Hee! Hee!) I was standing on what used to be tennis courts to take this pic and looking back over a long pond with waterlilies and squirting fountains ... you can see the squirting water arches if you look closely at the photo.
More observation towers and bridges are scattered throughout the park ... you can almost imagine the jungle tribes peering at you from behind the ferns as you stand here ... or maybe that's just MY overactive imagination! Tee! Hee! Hee!
This is looking at the building closest to the front of the gardens, what is now the entrance to the park, from beside the top of the waterfall in the earlier photo. You can see how the concrete has aged to look almost like rock now. There are hundreds of planter boxes like the ones you can see on the support posts here dotted throughout the park.
This wishing fountain is in front of what used to be the kiosk where Jose`s wife Margarita would sell home-made ice-cream. Apparently, some of the local lads, desperate for an ice-cream on a hot day but lacking the funds, would dip into the coins tossed into the fountain for good luck so they could enjoy their treat. After Margarita twigged to what was going on ... after realising she was being paid in a lot of damp coins! ... Jose` brought the boys' lives of petty-crime to a close ... when he relocated several eels from the river to the fountain. Yep ... that would certainly stop ME from dipping my fingers in the fountain! Tee! Hee! Hee!
This is Teresa Falls ... a mini-waterfall fed by a fresh water spring Jose` discovered when he was building paths for people to ramble through his gardens. He modified the water flow slightly so it mimicked the larger falls and it was the perfect spot for small children to paddle and splash in safety. This pretty waterfall is named after Jose`s daughter.
And this is the house Jose` built for his family. Unlike the other structures in the park, this one was built from stone. It and others were all hand-rendered with a mix of local clay and concrete and you can see the hand marks of Jose` and those who helped him build his dream, which is kind of a nice reminder of those who went before.
You know how they say you can never go back, that places from our past rarely live up to our memories of them? Well, I'm pleased to say that Paronella Park is an exception to this rule! I thoroughly loved exploring Jose`s grand dream of castles in the forest again after some 35 years and would certainly recommend it as a 'Must See' if you're anywhere near Innisfail or Cairns ... or Atherton, like we were! :0) We do tend to cover a bit of territory when we're on holidays! Tee! Hee! Hee! And for those who may not ever be 'in the neighbourhood', the Paronella Park web site is well worth a look-see.
OK ... that's the end of my next holiday instalment. Still a few more photos to show you ... unless you're sick of seeing gorgeous north QLD scenery??? :0) And next time I'll also show you some treasures I found on my travels ... of the fabricky kind! You just KNEW I'd find a patchwork shop or two in my travels, didn't you?! :0) Hope you're all having a fabulous week so far ... hope you're also staying WARM wherever you are, at least in the southern hemisphere ... just NINE degrees here on top of our 'hill' at the moment, overcast, rainy and blowing a gale. Is it any wonder I hate winter?!?! I sure am missing that warm northern weather!! Til next time ...
BRRRRRRRR ... BEAR HUGS!!