A life less Ordinary
Words by Bridey Zell
Judy Evans and her family were searching for something ‘different’, they dreamed of finding something far removed from the ordinary or mundane. Her and husband Mark, had spent 18 months travelling the Australian landscape with their young family, and had finally come to settle in Cairns, falling in love with its tropical surroundings. They had visions of operating a caravan park or the like, but whatever it was, they wanted it to be something unique. Then one day, they got the call from their agent – a castle in Innisfail was for sale. Many would be familiar with the love story that is Paronella Park, and the humble sugar cane farmer who built a castle for his family.
The former computer programmer had spent the six years before their Australian travels in Singapore. Whilst her husband worked at GE, Judy stayed at home. There was no house cleaning to be done, as a maid took care of all the household duties. While the children were at school, Judy used this time to broaden her knowledge, doing all sorts of courses, ranging from cooking, to calligraphy, and language studies. “I’ve always had a passion for learning, and I needed to be entertained during the day,” Judy laughs.
Following their time in Singapore, Judy and Mark took an entirely new direction. “My children had grown up in a life of privilege,” she said, “I wanted to show them the real world”. Thus came a decision to purchase a caravan and home-school her children whilst travelling Australia. After braving the cold of Tasmania, the family made their way back to the tropics, lured by the warmer weather.
Owning a castle seemed like a dream to this family, yet the reality of owning and operating a tourist park like this one was challenging. It required hard work, seven days a week. Judy and her husband had traversed many a caravan park, little did they know how different it would be running one. They had no experience maintaining tropical gardens, and heritage buildings. This was a huge learning curve for them. Nearly 24 years later, and it is evident that their hard work has truly paid off.
“It really is a partnership, a family run business, “says Judy.
Judy and Mark identify the importance of the customer, and make it a big part of their business philosophy. “We form an emotional attachment with our customers,” she says, “and we rely heavily on word of mouth”. The park has pickup regular tourism awards, as well as the QLD #1 Must Do award in 2009 and the Telstra Business Award. “The business award was very special for us, because it validated our ability to successfully run a business, not just manage a tourist attraction,” says Judy. Paronella Park was the dream they were searching for, and so the dream continues.
1671 Japoonvale Rd (Old Bruce Highway) Mena Creek, QLD 4871 | (07) 4065 0000 | www.paronellapark.com.au