Travelling through the tropical rainforests of Queensland the last thing you would anticipate stumbling upon is a century old Spanish castle. Yet there it is – Paronella Park – sitting beside a flowing waterfall. It should be in a fairy tale, not in the humid northern Australian jungle. 

The castle’s creator was Jose Paronella, who emigrated from northern Spain to Australia over one hundred years ago. Jose was in his early twenties and full of ambition and romance. He had left his fiance in northern Spain, promising to return to marry her when he had made enough wealth to let her live comfortably. And what was his plan for making money? He built sugar-cane farms in the tropics of this southern continent. 

When Jose returned to his native Catalonia near the border with France he discovered his fiance had married someone else. Dejected, and determined to sail back to Australia with a wife, Jose asked his former fiance’s younger sister to marry him instead. She agreed, and Jose brought Margarita back to the Australian tropics. On arrival in 1929 they started building Jose’s dream of a Spanish castle ten thousand miles from his childhood.

It would be wonderful to think that when their neighbours first saw Paronella’s crazy grand plans, they all uttered in unison: “No way, Jose!”

But Jose did have a way, and by the end of the 1930’s Paronella Park would have ornate turret-topped towers, stone balustrades, and star-filled ballrooms. Grand balconies would overlook the turtles playing in the creek flowing through the grounds. On weekends Jose and Margarita would host lavish parties in their castle, and hundreds of people would fill this enchanting place in the Australian rain forrest. 

When Jose died in 1948 the family were already rebuilding after a disastrous flood only two years earlier. And over the next five decades the castle would begin to fall apart through fire, cyclones, and the ever-encroaching rainforest surrounding the Catalan castle.

Almost fifty years after Jose Paronella died,  a young couple purchased the park in ruins. They slowly began to clear away the five decades of creeping tropics and repair a crumbling dream. Today, once again, hundreds of people walk through Paronella Park daily and marvel at a Spanish Castle ten thousand miles from where it should be.

When the Riley family visited recently, my favourite part of the park was an avenue of giant Kauri trees leading down to the creek. Jose Paronella planted them knowing he would never see their magnificence. He planted them for future generations to enjoy.

In a similar way I hope our caravan lap around Australia as a family will inspire dreams in our kids that will outlast us as parents.

There’s an ancient Greek proverb that says: “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.”

The Bible says something similar about itself: “This Book will be written for the generation to come, so a people yet to be created may know God”. (Psalm 102:18).

What metaphorical trees are you planting today that will inspire the dreams of generations to come?

A section of Jose Paronella’s castle in Queensland
The Castle’s riverside courtyard – with Joanne enjoying the sunshine
Joanne and the Riley kids on one of the castle’s many balconies
An avenue of Kauri trees planted by Jose Paronella in the 1930’s


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About this blog: Pastor David Riley is a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and is taking a sabbatical year during 2021 to drag his family around Australia in a caravan. This article is from his “Reverential Ramblings” series that meanders around a series of subjects pondered and stuff seen. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking “follow”.