Airlie Beach to Cairns. A most beautiful road trip.

Road Tripping north from Airlie Beach to Cairns.

Airlie Beach to Cairns via a secret side road
Take this recommended detour for road trippers, waterfall lovers, natures children and dreamers.

The 621.2  kilometres from Airlie Beach to Cairns on the Bruce Highway takes about 7.5 hours plus another hours drive up to Port Douglas. Sure you can make it to Cairns in one day, but you will miss too many awesome things to see and do. At least take two days, three would be best. You won’t be disappointed.

So blow a kiss goodbye to the bliss of sails and snorkels in the Whitsundays. With the bars and restaurants of Airlie Beach shrinking away in your rear view mirror, it’s time for something new and different.

Take a magic detour off the main Highway for just a section of this road trip. Airlie Beach to Cairns via a very special place, Paronella Park.  

Why go Paronella Park?

Airlie Beach to Cairns. A special Detour on the Road Trip
Walk Over the Swing Bridge to cross Mena Creek Falls from Paronella Park to Mena Creek Hotel

Take my advice and make this special detour because, well I’ve driven all over Australia (except Darwin) and there is nothing else like Paronella Park. You must go to this most beautiful, most magical place between Airlie Beach and Cairns. Do not miss the lushness and romance of this hidden stopover.

Paronella Park is a place where the true story of a Spanish visionary made his dream come to life through sheer grit and passion. The story involves a self made man, Jose Paronella, a fiance who couldn’t wait, an unexpected union, exotic world travel and a life’s dream completed in the jungles of north Queensland, Australia.

Paronella Park opened to the public in 1935.

Up until the mid 60’s you could dip in the waterhole, picnic by the falls or buy a ‘frozen fruit  icicle’ from the cantina.There was tennis on the lawn by the fountain, romantic strolls that wove through the hand  built paths that followed brooklets edged with exotic ferns, wild gingers, heliconias. Dwarfed by the  impressive avenue of towering Kauri Pines wanderers were lead back to the churning waterfall and the cool shaded picnic areas.

Evenings at Paronella Park were elegant and formal events. Locals and visitors went to the Castle’s Grand Ballroom for black tie dining accompanied by a string quartet, in the jungle! Jose’s wife Margarita, prepared the menu and the whole family helped to serve the delighted diners.

Jose Paronella was obsessed with the natural beauty of north Queensland.

Airlie Beach to Cairns via Paronella Park
The gorgeous swimming hole at the bottom of the falls

He was quoted “never seen such beauty in all the world as is here”. Jose made Paronella Park the first home in the area to have running water on tap to the house and electricity from the hydroelectric  plant. He strategically lit up the gardens and waterfalls to enhance his grand design by night.

He built his castles and extraordinary gardens by hand, using sand from the stream and stone and clay from the hills on the property. He created a magnificent cluster of elaborate buildings around the swimming hole at the bottom of the falls.

Ballrooms and fountains, change rooms and restaurant, a hydro power plant beside the falls and a tunnel of love through the hill to a secret smaller and intimate waterfall called Teresa Falls, named after his daughter.

The magic of Paronella Park today.

The moss covered castle are now in ruins, caused by a succession of cyclones and one devastating flood. While mother nature has taken her toll, the bones of the buildings and their proud spirit have survived.

But the happy whispers from a bygone era still drift within the constant spray of Mena Creek Falls.

Airlie Beach to Cairns. Road Tripping Side Track
Jose’s Romantic Castle had a beautiful view of the fountain on one side and the waterfall on the other.

The gardens are breathtaking and lush. The streams are full of turtles, friendly freshwater eels, blackfish and an occasional crocodile.

The forest has abundant birdlife, from  tiny fireflies to rainforest dragons, fruit doves, ulysses butterflies and tree snakes.

The forest itself is populated with a huge variety of ancient rainforest trees plus exotics gathered from around the world by Jose and his wife Margarita on their honeymoon and other trips.

Guided tours of Jose’s grand design run regularly throughout the day with fascinating local guides who are passionate to keep Jose’s dream alive and inspire you to your own dreams.

The guided night tour is highly recommended. Discover the Bentwing Micro Bat colony who live in the ‘tunnel of love’, see fireflies and carpet snakes and the giant Hercules Moth. See the hydro fountain lit up with the magical sounds of the night forest around you.

You can also self guide at leisure, day or night.

Entry permit $40 for two years.

How to Get to Paronella Park

Airlie Beach to Cairns via a Special Place
Balustrades  line the bridges and intimate walking trails scattered throughout the forest gardens.

From Airlie Beach and Proserpine drive north on the Bruce Highway via Townsville. Ingham, Cardwell and Tully. Be sure to stop at the lookout on the south end of Cardwell where you will see the mystical view of Hinchinbrook Island and the Hinchinbrook Channel.

North of Tully, exit the Main Highway at a left turn to Silkwood.

Follow to scenic tourist drive marked by the brown signs along the historical Cane Cutters Way. You pass through the sweet little country towns of Silkwood. Approximately 20ks from the highway you will arrive at the tiny village of Mena Creek. Cross the Mena Creek Waterfall Bridge and turn right into Paronella carpark on the north side of the bridge.

A beautiful swing bridge allows you to walk across the huge cascading waterfall between the magical world of Paronella Park and the Mena Creek Hotel.

Park Entry Fee

Before January 2017 the entry fee to Paronella Park was included in your camp fees. That has sadly changed. Entry to the park is now $40 per person and that ticket is good for two years.

Accommodation nearby.

Airlie Beach to Cairns via Paronella PArk
A picnic area for fairies and fireflies beside the raging falls.

Paronella Park; has many inexpensive powered and unpowered camp sites, a good camp kitchen and nice bathroom amenities at the top of the hill.

The Paronella Cabins are small and basic, sharing the bathroom and kitchen amenities with the campers. You do get a torch for night visits up the hill. Inside the cabin is a small fridge, TV, aircon, complimentary cold bottled water and coffee making facility. Note; there is no crockery or cutlery or cooking in the cabins.

The beds are extremely comfortable with exquisite linen and a lovely view of the jungle just beyond your tiny deck.

Priced from $90. Per night

Go paronellapark.com.au or phone 07 4065 0000

Bed And Breakfast style Accommodation on this unique tropical flower farm is in stylish, modern and fully self contained cabins for up to four guests. No shared facilities, private bathroom, separate bedroom, privacy assured, incredible views from the deck, a safe swimming hole and the beautiful river.

Complementary;

Exotic ginger flowers and many others are thriving in the rainforests at Mena Creek
  • Indulgent tropical Breakfast
  • Flower Farm Tour
  • Flowers to take home
  • Pet friendly

Mena Creek Flower House cabins – from $100 per night plus $40 per extra person.

Phone 07 4065 3409

Food at Mena Creek

The tiny settlement of Mena Creek has a lovely hotel open for beers, lunch and evening meals. The hotel is  unique in north queensland for taking meal orders till late. Take a stroll in the evening across the swing bridge to the hotel for dinner.

The Paronella Park complex also has a lovely big garden view cafe with the constant swish of the waterfall in the background. Simple Cafe fare of cakes and wraps, coffees and juices are available from 9 to 5.

North to Cairns and Port Douglas.

Travelling northward to Cairns is only 120 kilometres from Paronella Park. Exit and continue on the Cane Cutter’s Way through to Innisfail. It is a most glorious country drive, especially if there is some fog around the rolling hills. Stunning.

As a freelance author I participate in many affiliate programs. Just so you know…I am not affiliated with Paronella Park or the Mena Creek Flower Farm,

but from my personal experience I highly recommend both of these incredibly beautiful places on your road trip between Airlie Beach and Cairns.

Want to learn more about freelancing, affiliate marketing and other ways to make money online while traveling? See my blog here…or…

The Best Way To Earn Money Online.Go Far and Go Well,

From Janelle  

Founder of The Cashed Up Nomad.com           Earn Your Freedom Online

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9 Comments

  1. Alisa said:

    Wow thanks Janelle – Paronella Park sounds like an intriguing place to visit – especially with the kids – it’s like a fairyland.

    I love hearing about hidden places that are unique and quirky. I’ll make an effort to visit next time I’m in Queensland.

    What time of the year do you recommend visiting? Is it dangerous to swim there with the crocodiles!?

    March 13, 2017
    Reply
    • Janelle B.M. said:

      Paronella Park is awesome all year round, but if you want to experience waterfalls at their best you should go to North Queensland between December and May. Yes it’s summer and it’s hot and humid. That is what make the tropics special. All along the road from Airlie Beach to Cairns and Port Douglas are waterfalls and swimming holes. It is amazing.

      Unfortunately, crocs are prevalent in north Queensland and you must take the advice of any signage. A croc was photographed by the waterhole at Paronella Park some years ago. Some places are safe and some are not. Take local advice seriously.

      Cheers, Janelle.

      March 14, 2017
      Reply
  2. M. Gouldman said:

    This looks like an awesome road trip! I love to travel and road trips are probably the best way to go because you can see so much more while traveling at your leisure. When I have the time and I tend to look up places that I would love to visit and these places look beautiful!

    March 18, 2017
    Reply
    • Janelle B.M. said:

      Well I do love road trips but I love sailing trips even more. Sailing is the slowest way to travel,but you really get to look at everything from a new angle. We break up our trips with long stays in different locations. It’s definitely a lifestyle thing. Come and find out more about me here.

      Go well Miss M and thanks for the reply. J

      March 18, 2017
      Reply
    • Janelle B.M. said:

      Well I do love road trips but I love sailing trips even more. Sailing is the slowest way to travel,but you really get to look at everything from a new angle. We break up our trips with long stays in different locations. It’s definitely a lifestyle thing. Come and find out more about me here.

      Go well Miss M and thanks for the reply. J

      March 22, 2017
      Reply
  3. M. Gouldman said:

    This looks like an awesome road trip! I love to travel and road trips are probably the best way to go because you can see so much more while traveling at your leisure. When I have the time and I tend to look up places that I would love to visit and these places look beautiful!

    March 18, 2017
    Reply
    • Janelle B.M. said:

      Well I do love road trips but I love sailing trips even more. Sailing is the slowest way to travel,but you really get to look at everything from a new angle. We break up our trips with long stays in different locations. It’s definitely a lifestyle thing. Come and find out more about me here.

      Go well Miss M and thanks for the reply. J

      March 22, 2017
      Reply
  4. Lanta Eco News said:

    Paronella Park sounds wonderful and you describe it so well. Everyone must want to visit after reading this. Jose Paronella sounds like a pretty amazing person to have achieved all that he did. It can’t have been easy but seems like it was worth all the trouble to create such a spectacular place. What a shame the castle is now in ruins. It would be amazing to see it restored to its former glory. Maybe one day… The people who experienced it back in its heyday were very lucky!

    November 20, 2017
    Reply
    • Janelle B.M. said:

      That place is awesome. What an iconic love gesture or a mad obsession!

      December 23, 2017
      Reply

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