If you’ve ever taken a road trip in Australia you will have no doubt encountered at least one (if not many more) of our iconic Big Things. Littered around the country these aging oversized structures of fibreglass and concrete dominate the skylines of many a small town. Some have historical significance, some promote local produce, and some are just downright zany and appear to have no reason for being other than…simply being.
There are other countries who have adopted the notion of building something big to represent local industry, heroes or local rivalries. But none have done so quite as passionately as here in Australia. Our list of Big Things just keeps on growing with there now being over 200 listed Big Things to visit.
In Muswellbrook you’ll find the Big Blue Heeler. In Berri they have the Big Orange. Noosaville has the Big Pelican, Gumeracha the Big Rocking Horse and in Cobar you’ll see the Big Beer Can. It all began in 1963 when one Paul Kelly built ‘Scotty’ the 5m high Big Scotsman in Medindie, Adelaide. A year later The Big Banana arrived and then the floodgates truly opened.
Maybe our obsession with building big things should come as no surprise. As the world’s biggest island, with the world’s largest monolith, maybe we were destined to be driven to create all things large. Each year a new Big Thing gets added to the list. Often though the launch is marred by the controversy over the future of Australia’s Big Things. As they age and decay they face the challenge of other ventures vying for tourist dollars. And the question is asked: do they still draw the crowds of tourist travellers stopping for a leg stretch? Will this cult phenomenon survive? Will our passion last? And to what length will proprietors go to keep their Big Thing in the public’s eye? When the Big Mango went missing in 2014 we were all aghast (or at least intrigued) until it was revealed to be a publicity stunt.
Call us nostalgic, but this week we’re taking time out to celebrate our favourite Big Things of Australia. Kitsch they may be. Retro, most definitely! But iconic, heart warming and some good old Aussie fun they certainly are! Here at Fun Over Fifty, although we are always looking for new sights to discover across this great land, we are also passionate about our heritage. And the Big Things of Australia showcase a bygone era and an Aussie spirit that we should be proud of!
Big Pineapple – Once declared the second most visited tourist attraction in Australia, it doesn’t get much more iconic Queensland than the Big Pineapple. Opened in 1971 and located in Woomye in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, the Big Pineapple even welcomed Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their 1983 royal tour. Having been through some ups and downs in recent years, this oversized tropical fruit re-opened in 2015 with its heritage-listed status ensuring that the icon remains a family favourite.
Big Banana – Often mistaken as Australia’s first Big Thing, the Big Banana came in a close second when unveiled in 1964. Located on one of Australia’s busiest highways the Big Banana does just what it was designed to do – grab attention! Morphing from the original banana stall to a plantation expansion and educational venue, the Big Banana now boasts everything from a multi media display, toboggan ride and skating rink as part of its fun park. This Big Thing is the ultimate success story and definitely lives up to its tag line ‘A whole bunch of fun’!
Big Boxing Crocodile – You’d think a name like Humpty Doo would be enough of a draw card – after all it’s been on many a list of unusual place names! Not satisfied with that, Humpty Doo also boasts the cartoon-like Big Boxing Crocodile, said to be a celebration of the Australian America’s Cup victory in 1983. Maybe it’s also an ode to the number of crocs in the area, though those are not often seen wearing boxing gloves. You can stop for a photo (and a giggle) with the croc 38kms from Darwin on the road to Kakadu.
Big Golden Guitar – Definitely up there as one of the more well known Big Things on the list, this guitar symbolises all that is country music in Australia’s country music capital, Tamworth. Modelled on the trophies received by winners at the festival’s award ceremony, it stands around 12 m high and was opened in 1988 by legendary Slim Dusty, an icon himself. Here you’ll also find a collectors museum, wax museum and just about everything you need to kick off you visit to Tamworth on the right boot-scooting foot!
Big Ned Kelly – Folk hero or murderous villain? Glenrowan, Victoria was the site of the last siege of the Kelly Gang on June 28, 1880. On that day three of the gang’s members met their fate, and Ned’s was sealed. Today the town showcases just about all there is to know about the infamous bushranger. Including a big re-creation of Ned decked out in his ingenious, yet cumbersome, bullet proof armour. Was Kelly our Aussie equivalent of Robin Hood, or simply a bush ranging thug? Regardless, time has given him legendary status, and a 6m high likeness on the list of Australian Big Things.
Big Prawn – Not to be outdone by the Big Lobster (known as Larry to the locals of Kingston S.A), Ballina N.S.W has the Big Prawn. Both crustaceans were built to draw customers to local businesses, and both at some stage have fallen into disrepair. However it is the Big Prawn that has seen the most significant outpouring of local support. When the council permitted the prawn’s destruction in 2010 a local petition literally saved the prawn. Subsequently Bunnings bought the land on which the prawn sat and invested $400,000 in remodelling and renovating the icon – a tribute to the local prawn industry.
Big Golden Gumboot – There’s nothing quite like a little town rivalry! And there’s none greater than the long-running feud between north Queensland’s Tully and Babinda as to which is Australia’s wettest town. Tully has taken it to the extreme holding the annual Golden Gumboot Festival and erecting a 7.9m tall gumboot (with green tree frog) to acknowledge the substantial annual rainfall in the area. Both towns sit on cleared rainforest and Tully has experienced floods in excess of 8m but both claim to be the soggiest towns in Australia.
Big Penguin – If you’ve got it, flaunt it! The town of Penguin on Tasmania’s north coast has penguins, lots of penguins – of the natural and man-made variety. With rookeries all along the coast, it is at Penguin Point that visitors can witness the tiny sea birds waddling up the beach to lay their eggs from March till September each year. If you miss this though, don’t worry. There’s always the 10ft tall fibreglass Big Penguin (on Penguin Esplanade) erected for the town’s centenary in 1975. Keep your eyes peeled whilst in town, you’re sure to spot more than the odd trinket or tribute to this local icon.
Big Merino – Celebrating Australia’s fine wool industry and recognising the town of Goulburn, the Big Merino is an impressive life-like model of Rambo, a stud ram from a local property. This giant ram is also a prime example of just how much business a Big Thing can bring to a community. When the highway bypassed Goulburn in 1992, the Big Merino lost the patronage of around 40 tourist coaches a day. Moving the 15m high, 97 tonne ram 800m to a more accessible spot was no mean feat. But the proof is in the pudding with a visit to the gift shop and permanent exhibition proving a favourite with passing travellers.
Big Galah – It may be Kookaburras that are known for their laugh, but it’s more likely to be drivers who get the giggles when an 8m tall Big Galah appears on the horizon when approaching Kimba in S.A. Kimba’s location at the northern edge of the Eyre Peninsula has her claiming the halfway point across Australia. And the Galah can be found outside the ‘Halfway Across Australia’ tourist and gem shop which sells the local, and unique, Cowell Jade. Built in 1993, you’d be a flaming galah not to stop and admire this huge fibreglass bird perched geographically halfway between Sydney and Perth.