On our way back from Cairns to Byron Bay, we stopped in at Paronella Park, about 2 hours south of Cairns. It was beautiful, and the history of it was super interesting.
Jose Paronella was born in Spain, and trained to be a baker there, but he wanted to make a lot of money, so he left Spain in 1913, and his fiancee behind, and moved to Australia.
He worked as a baker for awhile, but eventually got bored, and started working in the fields. He saved up all of his money from working in the fields, and used it to by land, which he then rented out to other farmers. He also loaned out the money he made from renting the land to other people in the community, and eventually he became very rich.
His dream was to built a castle, so eventually that’s what he did. He designed and built it himself, using mostly found materials and concrete. It had a ballroom, a movie theater where people from the town would come to watch news reels every morning, and a lake/waterfall that served as the community swimming pool for many years.
Jose was very smart. He used the river on the property to build a hydro-electric dam, so Paronella Park had electricity nearly a decade before the surrounding towns.
In one area of land at Paronella, he wanted to build an underground aquarium, but the metal he used to build it eventually rusted, and the water leaked out. He was left with an empty tunnel which was eventually taken over by bats.
Instead of being upset about this turn of events, he renamed it “The Tunnel of Love” because girls would get scared and hold on tight to their boyfriends when they ran through it, and charged couples a fee for the experience.
He also had a wishing well at the entrance to the property, but local kids would come in and steal the coins. So he took an eel from the lake and put it in the fountain, with a sign that said “Beware of Electric Eel” and he never lost anymore money after that.
The property is quite large, with lots of little projects that were completed, and also ongoing at the time of his death, but it wasn’t until a fire in the more recent years cleared out some of the overgrowth that the current owners realized that almost every single thing on the property was built to line up with and frame the waterfall.
It was twelve years before he was able to return to Spain to get his fiancee, and when he returned he found out she had waited for him for ten years, and finally married someone else. Jose ended up marrying her younger sister Margarita, who was apparently much more beautiful, and the two spent the rest of Jose’s life fixing up Paronella Park.
We were only there for about two hours, but we were able to check out everything on the property. It was kind of funny because I was standing on the edge of the lake, and I had this weird feeling that something was watching me, and I got randomly scared for no reason.
Then when I walked back over to the other side of the park, I saw a sign that said “Beware of Crocodiles”. So that happened.
If you are in the area, definitely stop in and check out Paronella, the entry fee is kind of expensive, but the owner was there when we got there and he let us in for student price, with a wink, and also with entry you can camp overnight at their campground for free, so if you time it so you can stay there overnight, it’s not a bad deal, especially because the park is supposed to be even more beautiful lit up at night.