Quirky castle with hydro plant firing on all cylinders

Quirky castle with hydro plant firing on all cylinders

Australia’s quirkiest private estate, which has its own castle and hydro-electric plant, is one of the few places making the most of Queensland’s wet season.

The lush Paronella Park — whose creator Jose Paronella commissioned the Far North’s first-ever hydro-electric plant on the estate in 1933 — had been facing the waterfall running dry just six weeks ago.

Mark Evans, the current owner whose passion for the site reignited Paronella’s dream — to award-winning effect — told The Courier-Mail that the deluge was “a sight to behold”.

“In the Mena Creek region, where Paronella Park is located, we did not receive the heaviest of the deluge, so for us it has actually been a wonderful bonus,” he told The Courier-Mail.

“Wind the clock back six weeks, and we were praying for rain as the waterfall had almost stopped altogether. Now, it is a sight to behold.”

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“The rain is critical for Paronella Park as the property is made up of lush green gardens and grounds, and we receive the majority of our power from the hydro-electric system, which is running beautifully at the moment.”

Mr Evans said there was a short period when the rain got too heavy and the hydro plant had to be shut down.

But he said, “at the moment it is running like a dream”.

“We are still receiving quite a few guests, and as the monsoon moves away we expect a few more; so we’re hoping for a fairly immediate response after the weather. The Park is still open, and looks as beautiful and green as ever, with the waterfall a spectacular sight.”.

Mr Evans and his family began a major operation to restore Paronella Park over a decade ago, with the Queensland Government giving $45,000 toward the cost of restoring North Queensland’s first hydro-electric generator, with donations from the public coming in over $20,000 and the estate borrowing $300,000 from the bank.

The castle is a stunning sight surrounded by greenery and was the centre of Jose Paronella’s dream on the five hectare site. He built the castle, picnic area by the falls which holds the overflow during flood periods, tennis courts, bridges, a tunnel, and planted over 7,000 trees. He opened it to the public in 1935 with the site abandoned for some time before the Evans began restoring it in 1993.

They continue to operate the heritage site as not just a park but an accommodation venue that’s popular for weddings.

Paronella Park — open every day but Christmas — is 120km south of Cairns, about halfway between Innisfail and Silkwood on the Old Bruce Highway.

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