Waterfalls and Castles
Trip Start May 01, 2010
58Trip End Oct 03, 2010
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WEEK 10 PARONELLA PARK - for professional photos: www.paronellapark.com.au
Sunday morning we set off after a quick and easy banana sandwich breakfast. What else can one have here in Queensland?! Pawpaw or pineapple sandwich doesn’t sound right! We drove out the caravan park and as we approached the roadworks traffic light it turned red. Guess it had to! It has been red all the other four times we had driven up to it over the last couple of days and still nothing coming from the other direction, suspect it’s the Queensland way of frustrating us! Farewell to the cows and pretty open rolling meadows of the Atherton Tablelands. We passed a small brown cow (maybe a Swiss type this time, Margrit) with her tiny day old calf still unsteady on its feet).
Further along the road we thought we were passing a field of pink flowers but in fact they were pink plastic bags protecting new trees. After the turn off at Malanda we drove into the mist and fine guti (drizzle).
Our first stop was Millaa Millaa Falls carpark from where we could hear the loud sound of water tumbling over the falls. With umbrellas up, we went down through the small section of rainforest to the very pretty high natural waterfalls and pool. Next one 10 kms further on the Waterfalls Circuit along a very narrow windy but sealed road, is the Zillie Falls.
The small carpark there already had two vehicles parked in it so not enough space for us with our caravan. We drove over the narrow bridge and parked on the muddy, grass verge and walked back over the bridge crossing the swiftly flowing Theresa Creek. We are coming to realize not every Western Australian registered car’s occupants are from WA. Having noticed the WA number plates on a four wheel drive in the carpark, we announced to the people as they walked up from the falls, “Another bunch of West Australians, we see.” They looked at us as if we were stupid. They were German tourists who hired the vehicle in Brisbane and will drop it off in Cairns. They had no idea that the car had come from WA originally!
The last waterfall on the circuit is Ellinjaa Falls. Another pretty falls located at the bottom of a steep track which was especially challenging on the way back up! I have now perfected the art of going through puddles without getting my whole shoes wet - walk through on my heels! Each beautiful high natural waterfalls is surrounded with its own pocket of rainforest.
Back on the main road we went down a 10% descent for the next 2.5kms through the Wooroonooran National Park…what a lot of ooos! Good quiz question. How many o’s in Wooroonooran! We were no sooner down than we had a short steep 8% uphill before gradually getting down to sea level as we approached Innisfail. Another roller coaster ride. By then we were out of the dairy farm lands and back into beautiful rainforest with tall, wide topped tree ferns among a great variety of trees and climbers. “Fauna Crossing” sign - wonder what fauna we won’t see this time! The next sign heralded us back into Cassowary country - we live in hope…maybe this time!
Our last stop on our trip for today was Crawford’s Lookout and as we talked to an ex WA man who is now a lime farmer, the wispy clouds came up the valley along the hills. Soon after leaving the lookout, we came out of the Rainforest once more and drove through green valley dairy pastures, banana plantations and other fruit orchards with a fruit winery. Before we knew it we were back in sugar cane country with cane plantations so dense and straight. All along the road there are “Look For Trains” signs where the narrow gauge tracks of the cane trains weave their way in and out of the cane fields. Poor cane farmers must have lost their cane trains. We drove past the Bundaberg Sugar South Johnston Mill where the air was thick with the strong sweet smell of sugar production.
We found the direction signs to Paronella much more prominent than those to Butchard Gardens in Victoria, Canada which is significantly better known throughout the world but where we got hopelessly lost. Paronella Park is 1 hr 20 min from Atherton just south of Innisfail. “Everyone has a dream…. but not everyone’s dreams are fulfilled.” Jose Paronella a young immigrant from Spain had a dream which was to build a castle.
He chose a special part of Australia in Mena Creek, Queensland to fulfill this dream and created Paronella Park. On 5 acres beside Mena Creek Falls he built his castle, picnic area, tennis court, bridges, a tunnel of love, and wrapped it up in an amazing range of 7,500 tropical plants and trees and opened it to the public in 1935. In an article in the local newspaper in 1935 was written “There is a special thrill awaiting those who know how to paddle a boat and wish to venture under the roaring falls. If you brave the shower of spray near the edge you will find yourself in a cavern with water dripping from the fern and lichen covered roof, and a icy torrent screening out the sun.”
No one is now permitted out on the water but the walks around are wonderful and one can imagine how it must have been for the locals in the 1930s to spend their Sunday afternoons rowing, swimming and picnicing in and around the beautiful lake between the falls and the castle. “The Paronellas invited everyone to movies on Saturday nights, built tennis courts from crushed termite mounds, and a pavilion with turret-topped balconies, refreshment rooms and changing cubicles for swimmers.”
Paronella Park has received multiple Queensland tourism awards, is State and National Heritage listed, and is a National Trust listed property. It is privately owned and operated and Eco accredited. This park is the site of Queensland’s first privately owned hydro electric plant installed in 1933. After some family tragedies with Jose, his wife and his son dying, the park was sold and later the main building was destroyed by fire and the property was abandoned for quite some time.
The rain forest overtook the garden but the present owners had the vision of what it could be like, bought it and started the huge task of clearing the garden again. What remains today is a ruined castle and other buildings covered in moss and ferns which give it a special feel.
The original is gone but what remains attracts thousand of visitors every year. The creek running through the property is alive with fish, eels and turtles which are easily seen especially if fed with the little packets of pellets handed out by the reception.
The gardens are illuminated by solar lights at night and the building and waterfall are lit up which give the place an aura of its own. Our entrance price included a night in the adjacent caravan park which was useful as we could visit both during the day and also after dark. It was amazing how different the various parts of the garden looked at night compared with the day. By the time we were back at the van after the magical night time walk through the park, it was already nearly 10pm. The park was in darkness and with the torch, I am sure, by the back of the caravan, was a little bilby mesmerised in the torch light. It was so cute with it’s long rat like tail and pointy nose. Could have got a good photo, but of course coming back from the toilet I didn’t have the camera. We woke the next morning in no hurry to pack up and leave as we had only a short distance to travel to our next stop at Mission Beach. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, talked to a few of our neighbours, compared notes and experiences and then hooked up the van. Thankfully we had no rain while we were there, but they must have had a lot before we arrived as the grassy van sites were very soggy, squelchy and muddy. Our caravan was parked in an awkward site to get out of so it was easier to wait till all the other vans were gone before attempting to move ours. As Mike skillfully moved it out, we were able to say cheers to the “mud, mud, glorious mud”. Margaret then made another visit to the garden and the onsite museum before we said goodbye to the little town of Mena Creek. The last walk in the gardens in the cool of the morning with no one else around was quite enchanting and walking down all the different paths made me feel like I had my own special secret garden.