Mena Creek is a tiny town in far northern Queensland that few people would ever had heard of if it wasn’t for a man named Jose Paronella. He left Spain in 1913 and arrived in Innisfail, which was (and still is) sugar cane country. He worked hard, made money, bought land in Mena Creek – all pretty standard stuff. Except instead of retiring home to Spain a wealthy man, Jose stayed in Mena Creek and built by hand what became Australia’s first entertainment park.
The story of Paronella Park is an amazing one. It’s a place that you just have to experience. You need to see up close the marks of his fingers that imprint the concrete columns he built by hand. You need to peer down into the “tunnel of love” that he dug out of the dirt and rock using hand tools. You need to walk down the steps he carved, sit on the concrete benches he moulded, listen to the water rush down the falls that made him fall in love with the place.
It is a place formed first in the imagination. For any writer, a story of a human being following their passion ignites sparks but Paronella Park offers much more than this. The location itself inspires so many stories. The whispers and echoes of past celebrations and miseries inhabit the ruins. People loved here, married here. Babies were born. Hearts were broken. Floods and cyclones destroyed buildings and felled trees. Everywhere, nature has taken back what Jose Paronella carved from her, and in the heat and humidity, the water fall beckons, but so do the crocodiles. You are warned: do not swim.
Paronella Park is filled with the ghosts of the past. Jose Paronella’s DNA is embedded into each column, step, wall, planter, fountain, and balustrade. It’s hard to get your head around the sheer amount of physical labour that went into creating this place, let alone fathom the imagination of a man who came halfway across the world to share his culture just to make others happy.
Whether you’re a writer, photographer, painter, traveller or adventurer, you must visit Paronella Park. Listen to the ghosts of the past, be inspired by the passion of a man who wouldn’t quit, stroll the pathways between the ruins and rainforest, and sit and contemplate a truly remarkable place.