How to look 500 when you’re only 45


If you’re 45, but look like you’re a couple of hundred years old at least, it might be demoralising having tourists come to gawk at you. Not so for the Macadamia Castle, who turned 45 last weekend and had a bit of a party.

On 11 January, in 1974, what was then called the Knockrow Castle, opened its portcullis. Allan and Joyce Howard had been operating a motel in Ballina, and believed the region needed a tourist attraction during cold or wet weather – when visitors couldn’t spend the day at the beach and would be stuck in hotel rooms.

As a child, Allan had always been fascinated by castles, armour and knights, and so, this is where the inspiration for the castle came from. At that time, the Pacific Highway ran right by the front door, er… the portcullis.

The larger-than-life knight was always a part of Allan’s plan for the attraction, and the six-metre structure was built by local surfboard builder Bob McTavish, using fibreglass sheets, and was installed in 1985.

Other owners of the castle were Patrick Madigan (1989–1996), who introduced the Animal Park, Jerome Hensen (1996–2007) who changed the name to Macadamia Castle and expanded the Animal Park. The fourth and current owner, Tony Gilding, has been operating the Macadamia Castle since 2007.

‘A few months after taking over the Castle, it became obvious to me that this is not just another business. In fact, I do not consider myself an owner, but rather a custodian for future generations. The Macadamia Castle is an important community asset, and an absolute joy. But also a serious responsibility,’ said Tony, who with a view towards changing times has installed electric car charging stations in the carpark of the Castle.

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