Paronella Park: Music, Migration and the ‘Tropical Exotic’


  • Annie Mitchell Southern Cross University



The history of Paronella Park is a tale of migration from Europe to far north Queensland; underscored by the music of a diversity of cultures that weaves a rich tapestry through this narrative; set to a backdrop of tropical wilderness in the rainforest of Mena Creek, via Innisfail. Jose Paronella arrived in north Queensland, Australia from Catalonia, Spain in 1911; where he spent many years working as a cane cutter. In 1929 he bought thirteen acres of land on Mena Creek to fulfil his dream of creating a Spanish castle and tourist resort. By 1935 Paronella’s dream had become a reality, with the completed construction of Paronella Park: a Spanish castle, picnic area, ballroom, movie theatre, hydro-electric power system, tennis courts and botanical gardens. Paronella Park became the cultural hub of the Mena Creek-Innisfail area, providing entertainment in movies, dances, balls and theatre. North Queensland was a base for Allied Service personnel during World War II, so musical activities increased greatly during this time with Australian and United States soldiers frequenting Paronella Park on rest and recreation. From this heyday, Paronella Park has survived destruction by cyclones and floods, fire, years of neglect, and finally restoration of much of the property. Over the past decade, Paronella Park has won extensive tourism awards. In 2010, to commemorate Paronella Park’s 75th anniversary, the musical The Impossible Dream was written and performed in Cairns. This paper traces the musical history of Paronella Park, investigates the cultural and musical activities performed there, identifies the bands and musicians who played at Paronella Park, their musical styles and repertoire, discusses the contribution of Paronella Park to tourism in north Queensland, and evaluates the influences of Spanish culture and music on the identity of the Mena Creek community. Music and lyrics from The Impossible Dream are transcribed and analysed to correlate their musical links to entertainment at Paronella Park during the 1930s and 1940s and identify Spanish influences in the musical score. The research also evaluates the impact of The Impossible Dream on recent tourism at Paronella Park, investigates current musical entertainment at Paronella Park and its potential for future development.




How to Cite

Mitchell, A. (2016). Paronella Park: Music, Migration and the ‘Tropical Exotic’. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 12(2).