The Castle Built by a Spanish Dreamer in the Australian Rainforest

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Dec. 12 2013 10:23 AM

Paronella Park: The Castle Built by a Spanish Dreamer in Tropical Australia

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a blog about the world's hidden wonders. Like us on Facebook, Tumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Since childhood, Spanish baker Jose Paronella had dreamt of building a Moorish castle. In 1913, the adventurous 26-year-old left his village in Catalonia and moved to the tropical north of Australia. There he eventually found wealth as a sugar cane farmer, and was finally able to pursue his dream. 

In 1929, Paronella purchased a plot of rainforest in Queensland and began building his castle by hand, using sand, clay, old train tracks, gravel from the nearby creek, and wood taken from abandoned houses. By 1935, the structure had expanded to include a pool, cafe, tennis courts, cinema, ballroom, and villa gardens with a grand staircase — all open to the public. 

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After Paronella's death in 1948, the building suffered decades of neglect, but thanks to conservation efforts, the castle is alive once again. Lush tropical plants have encroached upon and mingled with Paronella's hand-built stairs and fountains, making them look like they sprouted from their natural surroundings.

Other self-built castles:


View Paronella Park in a larger map

Ella Morton is a writer working on The Atlas Obscura, a book about global wonders, curiosities, and esoterica adapted from Atlas Obscura. Follow her on Twitter.

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