Kuranda, established in 1885, has been a tourist destination since the early 1900s. The completion of the Cairns to Kuranda railway line in 1891 made Kuranda more accessible to locals and tourists alike. Tourism to Far North Queensland was facilitated in the 1920s by the Adelaide Steamship Company’s coastal service, which operated in reaction to increased demand from the Australian domestic holiday market. By the 1930s tourism was flourishing in Kuranda. The destination was particularly popular with honeymoon couples. Several hotels, Remilton’s, Fitzpatrick and the Kuranda Hotel provided accommodation and dining facilities. However, travellers were primarily drawn to Kuranda for the region’s beauty and natural attractions, which reflected the travelling public’s motivations at the time. Travellers’ interests lay in discovering the picturesque, the tropical, and the exotic with their implied romanticism.
At Kuranda such natural attractions included the Barron Falls, the Barron River, and the Tropical Rainforest, exemplars of the grandeur of nature. The tropical vegetation was particularly admired by Europeans for its difference not only to other Australian vegetations but also in comparison to Europe’s plant life. Two enterprising inhabitants of Kuranda established similar businesses in the 1920s that highlighted “nature’s wonderland”. They were Mr Dick who established “Fairyland” and Mr Dan Duggan who established “The Maze”, which later became known as “Paradise”.
To reach “Paradise” tourists made their way from the railway station to the banks of the Barron River, below the station, where they boarded a boat that took them to “Paradise” on the opposite bank. Mr Duggan’s property, “Paradise”, consisted of many acres and was described in a souvenir pamphlet of the 1930s as a:
Jungle of exquisite Tropical scrub, babbling brooks and miniature waterfalls; wonderful ferns, palms and tree-ferns; beautiful orchids, aspleniums, elkhorns, staghorns, and other epiphytic growths – all glorious aids to the beauty and inviting coolness of the forest bowers.
Pathways led visitors through “God’s wonderland adorned with Nature’s flora and tropical wonders”. One section of the pathway, the Garden of Allah, was lined with rock figures. Under a canopy of fan palms a cleared area furnished with tables and chairs was where morning and afternoon teas were provided. There was also a golf course and for the more adventurous a walk that took visitors to a rocky lookout that afforded marvellous views of Kuranda and the surrounding countryside. In 1928 his Excellency the Governor of Queensland, Sir John Goodwin and Lady Goodwin visited “Paradise” and took part in a naming ceremony for this lookout. Lady Goodwin threw a glass of champagne at the rock and declared it “Governor Goodwin’s Lookout”.
The heyday of the romantic tourist destination reached its peak in the 1930s. Their gradual decline was largely due to a paradigm shift in the ‘ways of seeing’ rainforests; romance gave way to scientific interest. For “Paradise” and “Fairyland” World War II also heavily impacted visitor numbers due to their heavy reliance on visitor arrivals by train. The original owner of the Kuranda Riverboat, Brian Clarke, ran rainforest tours at “Paradise” during the 1990s.
Today part of Mr Duggan’s original “Paradise” property sits within a Council reserve. In 2015 the current owners of the Kuranda Riverboat, Warren and Melissa Clinton, applied for and were granted a permit from the Mareeba Shire Council to operate guided interpretive rainforest tours on this Council reserve and have incorporated these rainforest walking tours into the Kuranda Riverboat cruise timetable to the tropically diverse area that was and still is “Paradise”.