Good Australians: Paronella Park owners still ‘on a journey’ after 30 years

Jun 16, 2023

THIRTY years ago, the owners of one of Queensland’s most prolific attractions set on a journey around Australia, yet after three decades in business in Far North Queensland, they claim that “journey hasn’t come to a rest.”

Mark and Judy Evans celebrated 30 years of operating Paronella Park at Mena Creek this week, with the multiple award-winning destination pinning another accolade to their mighty list – a Good Australian Award – presented by Katter’s Australian Party MP Bob Katter.

The couple who famously stumbled upon the iconic castle and park in 1993 during a caravan trip, celebrated their 30-year milestone on Wednesday alongside family, friends, dignitaries and of course, Jose Paronella’s family, including Teresa.

Mr Evans pinned the success of the family-run venture, which includes the Mena Creek Hotel, the neighbouring van park and the Mamu Tropical Skywalk on the ability to define the difference between a “tourist” and a “traveller,” and employing the “most enthusiastic staff ever.”

“A tourist, heading from Cairns for example, might pick out four spots to check out in one day, and then they’re gone,” Mr Evans said.

“A traveller is on a journey, they’re immersed in the story, they talk to other travellers, and we become a chapter of their own story. And then we see those travellers back, but next time it might be with friends and family.”

He said the key to attracting “travellers” was offering perks such as tickets that are valid for two years, free nights at the van park and easily accessible meals from the neighbouring hotel.

“So they’re not just here to ‘stop’ at Paronella Park, they’re here to discover Mena Creek on their journey.”

Mr Evans said while the experience of Paronella Park was still predicated on its founder Jose’s story, the “Evan impact or addition” to the park was hiring staff that would be “remembered by their guests.”

“That’s number one. What we look for in staff is people who bring the same level of enthusiasm and passion to their work each day.”

Mr Evans said his advice to those starting out in tourism was to “listen to your customers.”

“Give them what they want, it might mean putting aside what you think is right, what you prefer, just listen to them. Of all the awards, the ones we’re most proud of are the People’s Choice Awards, and for us, that tells us we’re listening.”

He said after three decades, he and Ms Evans would slowly start stepping back, but not without ensuring the legacy of the park was protected for future generations.

Mr Katter congratulated the couple and their family on their success and awarded them with his Good Australian Award.

“Paronella Park was the romance and excitement of my youth. The great rock and roll bands, the great dances, a beautiful place to visit, wonderful times, but it turned into a heap a rubble beside one of a thousand waterfalls in North Queensland,” Mr Katter said.

“The men who made the modern world could see the world was going to need these new horseless carriages called cars, they could see that the world was going to need a product called petrol and they could see that the world would need steel not iron.

“Just like Mark and Judy could see that a heap of rubble and a waterfall could be turned into one of the key tourist attractions which has made FNQ a national tourist destination of very real significance. It’s extraordinary.

“Mark and Judy, I love you, you are the essence of those things that have made Australia the country that I love. God bless.”

The Good Australian Award, instituted by Kennedy MP, Bob Katter, recognises hardworking and honest North Queenslanders, and recipients of the award can use the post-nominal letters G.A. after their name.