Paronella Park was built in the 1930s by José Paronella (ca.1888 – 23 August 1948), a Spanish immigrant. José Paronella built facilities, including tennis courts and a cinema and a ballroom inspired by Spanish castles, to provide entertainment for the public. Since his death, a fire, a cyclone and several floods have badly damaged the park and the buildings. The park changed owners several times until, in 1993, it was bought by the present owners.
José Paronella arrived in nearby Innisfail, Queensland, Australia in 1913, having sailed from Catalonia in northern Spain to plan a splendid life for himself and his fiancée Matilda. He applied for Commonwealth naturalization in 1921, identifying his place of origin as La Vall in the province of Jarona . José worked hard for 11 years, creating his wealth by buying, improving and selling cane farms. While travelling through the beautiful countryside he discovered a virgin forest alongside spectacular Mena Creek Falls – perfect for his dream.
Upon returning to Spain, José discovered that Matilda had married another! Determined to sail back with a bride José proposed to Margarita, Matilda’s younger sister. One year later the happy newlyweds were ship bound for Australia and by 1929 had purchased the land of José’ dreams. He first built the grand 47-step staircase to shift building materials between the lower and upper level. Here the fun-loving couple had their cottage hand built of stone, and moved in on Christmas Eve.
Inspired by childhood memories of Catalonian castles José and his workers set to work designing an entertainment area. Their fingerprints in the cement foundations remain as testament to their extraordinary effort that guaranteed joyous times. A movie theatre transformed on weekends into a huge ballroom with live bands who entertained while a massive ball of mirrors spun from the ceiling to reflect a dazzle of pink and blue lights.
Surrounding their home and castle, more than 7000 trees were planted including an avenue of Kauris that tower now like cathedral spires in a sacred forest.
North Queensland’s first hydro electric plant was built in 1933 to power the 5 ha (13 acre) park, and the castle grounds were ready to welcome the public in 1935.