Paronella Park

Paronella Park is located in far north Queensland and is one of Innisfail’s best known landmarks.  Located at Mena Creek, this amazing castle was built right on the edge of the magnificent Mena Creek Falls.

Now this place isn’t just another tourist attraction, this place has a truely amazing story behind it. It is all thanks to a man with a dream ….. a man named José Paronella. You see, José wanted to build a castle … and build a castle he did!

José Paronella, from Spain, arrived in Australia in 1913. For the next 11 years he worked hard cutting sugar cane, and later purchasing, improving, and reselling cane farms. In 1924 he returned to Spain and married Margarita, before returning to Australia. It was then that José purchased 13 acres of virgin scrub along Mena Creek for £120 and this amazing story started to unfold.

Over the years José began to create this amazing wonderland known as Paronella Park. Although he lived there with his family, in 1935 he also opened it up to the public so that they could all enjoy the spectacular place. José built the whole park by hand, including the Castle, bridges, a Tunnel of Love, Giant Staircase and hand planting over 7000 tropical plants and trees. This was also home to a Hydro Electric generating plant which supplied power to the whole park, the earliest in North Queensland.

Click Here to read more of the history.

José died of cancer in 1948, leaving the management of the park to his wife and two children. Of course the maintenance and upkeep of such a place was significant and over the years the park also suffered damage and setbacks due to the forces of Mother Nature, floods, cyclones and fires. The park was sold out of the family in 1977, and after a fire swept through the castle in 1979 the park closed to the public.

In November 2009, it was decided to restore the parks original 1930s era hydro electric system at a cost of $450,000 and, like it did when José was alive, this system now once again provides all of the Park’s electricity requirements.

Mark and Judy Evans, the current owner/operators, purchased the park in 1993 and set about putting this place back on the map. After a big job of restoring, maintaining and preserving the history of the park, it was reopened to the public and we can say that they have done an amazing job. They have taken the view of ‘restoring’, rather than ‘rebuilding’ and whilst small restoration projects have been undertaken, the true essense of this park and José insight and dream is still well and truly alive.

We visited in 2018 on the way back home from our Cape York trip, also meeting up again with two other families from our Cape trip. As soon as we arrived Shelly set off on foot to explore the area and take some photographs while George set up camp! Whilst you are welcome to roam around the park by yourself, your entry ticket also includes ‘The Dream Continues Tour’ – a 45 minute guided walk which takes you through the highlights of the park and tells the extraordinary story of José Paronella’s dreams and vision. This tour departs every 30 minutes from 9.30am until 4.30pm.

We all had a delicious dinner at the Mena Creek Hotel, which is also owned by the same people who own Paronella Park, and after the short stroll back to the park we were ready to join in ‘The Darkness Falls Tour’, in which we learned a little more about the history of the park as we strolled around the grounds at night. Seeing the park in darkness gave us a totally different perspective. This tour runs for approximately 1 hour and departs at 6.15pm each night.

After the tour, the current owners came out to speak with our group and told us a little about the history and their experiences and involvement since purchasing the park.

They also handed us all a little pouch with a piece of the castle in it, with a note that reads ‘This is a piece of José Paronella’s Castle. It was hand mixed by José in 1930 and came down in Cyclone Larry in 2006. We hope that this piece of castle reminds you to follow your dreams, just like José did’.

Now this had been on our list of places to visit for a while and we can now highly recommend it. Not only does your entry ticket include the guided tours mentioned above, it also includes overnight camping fees in their camping ground so that you can explore at your leisure. AND your ticket is valid for 24 months, so as long as you have it validated prior to leaving you are able to return again within the next 24 months.

This is one really well run tourist attraction and it’s not hard to see why they win so many awards.

This should definitely be on your list of places to visit. It’s quite the experience to wander around and marvel at the achievements of this man, a man who had a dream and did everything in his power to make that dream come true.

🏠 1671 Japoonvale Rd (Old Bruce Highway), Mena Creek, Queensland 4871

🖥 http://www.paronellapark.com.au

📞 07 4065 0000

The New Car!

So look what happened ….. Shelly finally got her Hilux she’s always wanted!

A lot of you know that we’ve been looking at selling the green Prado and upgrading to something newer for Shelly to drive and for us to use as our weekend bush basher.

This is something we have been talking about for quite a while and after a lot of ‘talking’ and searching for the perfect vehicle, we finally found one a few hours north of Sydney.

George took a trip up to check it out first, and a week later Shelly went up to see and test drive it. After all the appropriate checks were run, and the car got the clean bill of health, we arranged to go and pick it up. So last weekend our newest family member arrived and it’s safe to say that we are both a little excited about this new project!

Although we own two other 4WD’s, this will be the first one that Shelly is going to build up exactly how she wants, so of course that means there could be a little pink (which may have already started!)

Like our white Prado, this Hilux is an ex-mining vehicle so it came with a lot of extras that we would have added anyway. It has the bull-bar (winch compatible so its easy to add a winch at a later stage), roll cage, UHF radio, reverse camera and it even has a dual battery system fitted. It was certainly a great buy for us.

Although this will be Shelly’s daily driver, it will also be our new weekend bush basher so it needs to be easy to drive in the city and fit in car parks etc, but we also need to ensure it is more than capable off-road. Although it’s more than capable of heading off-road now, we still have a list of mods and accessories which are to come and we are excited to start on the build.

So stay tuned for the build up progress ……

Easter camping adventures

We had a great weekend away with the dogs. Gelly & Charli spend a lot of time 4WDing in the bush with us, but this was only their 2nd ever camping trip (first one did not end well and they got taken home half way through!), but this time we were pleasantly surprised with their behaviour! We were a little concerned about the roaming cows, kangaroos and emus, but they were actually really well behaved, we doubted their ability to be so good, but they surprised us both!!

We left on Good Friday with no idea where we would stay for the next few days, George wanted to head towards Wagga or Tumut area and once there we’d find somewhere to free camp, so off we went!

We ended up heading to the small country town of Tumut, which is in the Riverina region of NSW and basically at the foot of the Snowy Mountains. We arrived around 11am and called up our trusty WikiCamps app to see what camping spots were around. We found a really great spot right on the river, but as it was still so early in the day we headed off exploring. First stop was the Blowering Dam, which is one of the biggest dams in NSW, at 1,628,000 megalitres it is three times the size of Sydney Harbour.

Blowering Dam was also the site where, in 1978, Ken Warby set the world water speed record of 317.6 miles per hour (511.1 km / hour) in his boat the Spirit of Australia.

We ended up driving to the Bago State Forest to see if we could find a place to camp for the night. Some of the views from here were beautiful so we were quite happy to set up camp in this area. After making George turn around in the middle of the track …. twice! (Remember we had the camper in tow too 😂) he was ready to find a place to set up camp!

We found a perfect spot, no one else around, right on the water and amazing scenery. As the sun went down we sat around the campfire and felt lucky that we are able to do this together.

As Gelly relaxed in front of the fire in mummy’s arms, we found that Charli is scared of campfires and wouldn’t come near us!

Next morning we realised that we didn’t quite take note of how we got in there to our campsite the day before! We then sat there hoping someone else would leave as we wondered where the hell the track out was!

After aimlessly driving around for a while we finally found the way out! (Lesson learnt, always plot entry points on the map!). We do have to thank the young guys on the motorbikes for helping out and pointing us in the right direction (even after Shelly laughed at them when they bogged their Ute and bike earlier in the morning!)

After posting some pics on our Facebook page the night before we were contacted by some of our followers (and now friends, after a chance meeting last year) who said we happened to be camped near them, so we arranged to catch up. After a quick visit at their campsite (litterally just across the water from where we were camped!) we took off exploring and looking for our next campsite.

As it turns out we didn’t find anything better so later in the arvo we rocked up back at their camp again and invited ourselves to stay! Thanks Mark & Tracey for letting us invade your campsite for the night!

We ended up having a great night with friends and the dogs loved it, Gelly in particular. Our little social butterfly couldn’t have been happier with all these new people to pat and play with her!

Sunday morning we decided to go for a quick 4WD through the bush, so the Prado and the Navara set off for a bit of a play. The tracks we found weren’t hard by any means, but they were slightly overgrown ….. actually ‘slightly’ isn’t the right word, there were trees taller than me growing in the middle of the track!

There was quite a bit of track clearing required and while George sat in the comfort of the car, Shelly walked the track and got covered in cuts and scratches as she cleared the way! Couldn’t have done it without Peter, he obviously did more than me, but let’s just pretend for a bit that I was big and tough and did it all myself! 💪 🤣

Not only was the track overgrown, we got to one point where a huge tree blocked the whole track.

The winch got a good workout removing this and we were then on our way again. Just another reminder to always carry recovery gear when off-road, a chainsaw may have been a handy little addition too!

Just another reminder to always carry recovery gear when off-road, a chainsaw may have been a handy little addition too!

So overall we had a super fun weekend. Two great campsites, campfires each night, amazing scenery, great company and a fun little 4WDing adventure.

The dogs both loved it and were totally exhausted by all the excitement and slept the whole way home and most of the next day! 🐾

We couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend our Easter break.

We have a new name!

Ok so just a quick post to let you all know that we have a new name! We are now known as ⬇️

But don’t worry, nothing else has changed, we are still the same old George and Shelly and we will still be sharing all our stories and photos of our life and travels as we always have.

Thanks to all of our family, friends and followers for your support and encouragement with all of our adventures. We love sharing our stories with you and if we inspire others to get out there and travel, then we have done our job!

Flinders Ranges 4×4 Tracks

We had been told that not only was the scenery spectacular, but there were some great 4X4 tracks to be found in the Flinders Ranges.  One of the perks of knowing the owner of a 4WD tour company is that we always find out the best of the best places to visit on our travels!  After getting the run down of where to visit we set off to explore a few of the tracks.  The first was the Arkapena Track which is a track made up of two sections, an AWD section and a 4WD only section.

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Arkapena Track

This self-guided four-wheel-drive track is on private property and it cost us $50 to drive it. Payment is made and key is picked up from Rawnsley Park Station. You are also provided with a map and information on the area you were driving, as well as directions to the starting point.

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The first section, which takes about 3 or so hours to drive is an all wheel drive track which, although not challenging, we enjoyed it as it offered some great scenery. In saying that though, if you were in an AWD vehicle (not a big tough Prado 😂) or you weren’t experienced, you’d certainly find this first section very enjoyable!

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The second part of this track is a 4WD only track and this section took us about an hour or so to complete.

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⛺️Rawnsley Park Station offer onsite camping and park cabins.  Contact details are:-

Telephone (08) 8648 0700    http://www.rawnsleypark.com.au


SkyTrek

New Years Day saw us head off on another 4WD track, this time the SkyTrek which is located on Willow Springs Station.

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This track is for vehicles with low range 4WD and experienced 4WDers only. As with the other track there is a charge which was $70.  We were given a map, a key and information guide before we set off.  There are 50 markers on the route and the information booklet takes you through what all of these points of interest are.

Note that this track takes around six hours to complete and you cannot start this track any later than 10:30 am. Willow Springs is a working sheep station and the Reynolds family have been managing and grazing on this land for over 85 years.

⛺️ Willow Springs offer onsite camping as well as various cottages.  Contact details are:-

Telephone (08) 8648 0016    http://www.skytrekwillowsprings.com.au


Many of the tracks in the area run through private property so always make sure you are actually allowed to be there!  Not all people let you drive on their property.  After you are sure you can actually be there ….

🔹stay to formed tracks

🔹leave gates as you find them

🔹take all rubbish with you

🔹watch for wildlife and/or stock

🔹call ahead if you would like to drive a track or call into the homestead and say hi if you are driving past, after all this is someone’s backyard you are driving through!


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Who visits the Flinders Ranges in summer …. we do!

We left the tranquil stunning waters of Coffin Bay and the SA coastline and made our way inland to the rugged ancient rock formations that make up the hot and dry Flinders Ranges.

The Flinders Ranges in South Australia are amazing and best visited in the cooler months of the year, but we were prepared for the heat and decided to go anyway! Yes it was hot, but it wasn’t too bad at all, the heat is a dry heat, totally different to the humidity we get in Sydney.

We spent our time camping in the Wilpena Pound Resort, which is the only accommodation located within the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. This resort offers motel style rooms, luxury safari tent accommodation and powered and unpowered sites. We stayed on a powered site and it was huge, plenty of space to spread out and still be away from your neighbours!

The Flinders Ranges is known for its stunning scenery, ancient landscapes and great 4×4 tracks. The landscape is up to 800 million years old and has been home to Adnyamathanha people for tens of thousands of years.

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Day 1 we decided to explore the popular tourist drives including Bunyeroo Valley and Brachina Gorge.

The Brachina Gorge and Bunyeroo Valley tracks are not a difficult drive by any means but they are by far one of the most scenic drives in the Flinders Ranges.

From a geological perspective, this whole area is something really special. To be honest, neither of us really get into the geology side too much, but when you realise you are driving through ranges and valleys with hundreds of millions of years worth of history you can’t help but feel something. We don’t understand it all, but just being there you get a feeling that you are somewhere special.

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The Bunyeroo formation consists of soft shale and siltstone which eroded away to form low valleys. It was formed about 580 million years ago when a rapid rise in the sea level flooded the whole area and resulted in deposition of the clay and silt. To know you are driving through an area that was once the bottom of an ocean is quite something.

If time is something you don’t have much of during your visit to the Flinders Ranges then these are your must do tracks. It gives a great introduction into the history and landscape of the area and the scenery is truly amazing. At every turn and every crest you come to you will be amazed at the views.


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Coffin Bay National Park

Coffin Bay was a place we had definitely wanted to visit, all the photos you see are stunning. We managed to incorporate a 2 night stay here on this trip and so glad we did. Would have loved to have more time to explore a little more of the coastline, but there is always next time!

After a long drive from Mildura to Coffin Bay …. with the temperature slowly rising the further we travelled (48 degrees when we stopped in Port Augusta for fuel!) we were wondering what we were in for!

Luckily the temperature at Coffin Bay was much more bearable … in fact it was quite cool at times.  We camped overlooking Yangie Bay which was great.  The local kangaroos visited and grazed right in front of our camp.  Driving around the park you’ll see plenty of kangaroos and emus.

We spent the day exploring the whole national park and it was absolutely beautiful.  Such a stunning area, the colour of the water is something you need to see to believe.  If you have been to Western Australia, it’s very similar to the waters around the Coral Bay area of WA.

 


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Holiday time!

Boxing Day saw us have an early 4am start for our drive to South Australia. Definitely glad we weren’t heading north …. we had no traffic at all in our direction!

We drove just over 1,000km and arrived in Mildura in Victoria where we decided to spend the night. After an early start, a big days driving and the 44 degree temperatures we decided to check into a hotel and make the most of some air conditioning! It was still over 40 degrees at 7pm!

The next morning we left around 7am for our drive to our first destination, Coffin Bay in South Australia. After passing through the quarantine inspection station (which we forgot about!) and saying goodbye to our tomatoes 🍅 we headed to Renmark for coffee and breakfast.

It was another big day of driving and we arrived at Coffin Bay in the late afternoon and headed out to the national park to set up camp …. and what a great campsite we had overlooking Yangie Bay.


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Tackling the Tele – Cape Tribulation

The official last night of our Cape York trip was a stay at Cape Tribulation.  This is an absolutely beautiful part of Australia, one we have actually visited quite a few times, but have never really taken too much time to explore.

On this stay we chose to spend 2 nights here as Shelly wanted to go Jungle Surfing …. more on this in another blog post!

We stayed in the Cape Tribulation Camping ground (well some of us did, long story!) and will definitely stay here again.  We camped right behind the beach, a walk down our sandy pathway through the palm trees and you are on this stunning beach.

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Our campsites were nestled in behind these palm trees.  Camp fires were allowed on the beach and there were plenty of families set up with dinner and a little campfire, such a perfect spot for it.

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Ash & Tas swinging from the vines!

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Words really can’t explain how beautiful and peaceful it was to watch the sunset out here.  The water was so still, it was like glass.

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Cape Tribulation is this special area where the rainforest meets the reef. To basically walk straight from the rainforest onto the beach is pretty amazing. This area of the Daintree National Park is really an area to be explored.

You’ll find Cape Tribulation about 35 km north of the Daintree River and this is where the bitumen ends and the dirt roads start (Bloomfield Track). In fact, the road to Cape Tribulation was only put through in 1962.

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The name Cape Tribulation can be traced back to Lieutenant James Cook. As Cook was trying to navigate his way through this area his ship ran into Endeavour Reef, north-northeast of Cape Tribulation. He wrote: “I name this point Cape Tribulation, because here began all my troubles.”

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As the area sits right on the fringing reef of the Great Barrier Reef, at low tide you could see quite a bit of coral washed up on the beach.

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After pizza and a few drinks in the restaurant we all retired back to our campsite for the night.

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We couldn’t have asked for a better end to our second Cape York trip.


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Tackling the Tele – CREB track

From the Lions Den Hotel four of our vehicles headed off for a day on the CREB Track.  Our other two vehicles opted for the easier, but equally scenic drive along the Bloomfield Track.

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The CREB track was originally constructed as a maintenance track by the Cairns Regional Electricity Board (CREB) to service their power lines.  Now it’s a 4WD playground!

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Not only will the track test your 4WD and your driving ability, but the scenery is absolutely stunning.  For a visually appealing 4WD track, you will find it hard to beat this one.

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Looks like a perfect place for a lunch stop …… and the unfortunate disintegrating butterfly event (drones and butterflies don’t go well together!)

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The whole CREB Track is only about 70km or so in length and basically runs from the Daintree Village to the Aboriginal community of Wujal Wujal.   Assuming you have no issues on the track, you can easily drive this in a few hours …. although there are places to camp should you wish to spend longer.

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This track can be one of the scariest drives you’ll do.  The track can change in difficulty significantly, the slightest bit of rain and this can change from a scenic drive to a very scary, dangerous drive.  Hence why the track is quite often closed.  The CREB is very narrow and steep in places and has numerous creek crossings and the clay base means that once the slightest bit of rain falls, the surface offers absolutely no grip at all.

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We first drove this track back in 2013 and it was a slightly overcast day and we did get a few spots of rain which added to our apprehension.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect of the track as it was, so rain wasn’t something we were excited about!  We were definitely able to see why they close this track in the wet.

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The track passes through World Heritage rainforest and eucalypt woodlands and the views are spectacular.  It really is a rewarding drive, both for 4WDing and visually.

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The longest and deepest water crossing on the CREB Track is the Daintree River.   It’s not a hard crossing and the base is fairly solid, but it’s always fun!

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