To begin with, let’s be clear on what constitutes a Big Thing.
The consensus is that it must fulfil two criteria: the object must be man-made, and larger than it would normally be. So, things like the Big Ayers Rock at Karuah, NSW, don’t really count, for obvious reasons.
Popularly regarded as the first big thing was the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, NSW, built by American entomologist John Landi in 1964, who came on lima bean business and stayed to buy a banana plantation.
However, Adelaide’s Big Scotsman, a 5m-high fibreglass mascot for Scotty’s Motel, was built in 1963. The craze gained pace over the years, and there are now some 150 big things around Australia!
Most big things house or are adjacent to a tourist trap of sorts, but it’s all in good fun. And there are some theories that the significance of these giant models goes way beyond roadside advertising – perhaps they represent our efforts to mark and make sense of the vast living space we have, or perhaps they help non-indigenous Australians lay claim to the land.
Or perhaps, it’s a bit of a lark. Whatever the case, the 14m-high concrete Captain Cook (Cairns, Qld) and 6m Ned Kelly (Glenrowan, Vic) share the same big-thing pedestal as the Big Mower (Beerwah, Qld) and Big Milkshake (Tongala, Vic)
Meet some of Australia’s big things, and be inspired to incorporate them in your next big trip around Australia:
BIG ROCKING HORSE – Gumeracha, South Australia
If you’re the biggest seller of wooden toys in Australia, you may as well have the biggest toy in Australia.
The Toy Factory’s Big Rocking Horse in Gumeracha, SA, was built in 1981, of 25 tonnes of steel set in 80 tonnes of concrete. The top of the horse’s head is 18.3m above the ground, and it’s 10.5m from nose to tail.
Three viewing platforms offer views of the surrounding area (it’s been used by the rural fire service to spot bushfires) – one on the rocker rails, one roughly where a saddle would be, and one at the top of the head. And no, it doesn’t rock.
If you climb all the way to the top, you can walk away with a neat little certificate of your achievement.
Location: The Big Rocking Horse is on Birdwood Road, Gumeracha, SA.
BIG LOBSTER – Kingston SE, South Australia
Kingston SE is a pretty seaside town on SA’s south-east coast (funny that). It sports a highly unusual analemmatic sundial, a striking lighthouse relocated from Cape Jaffa, and a beach edged by pines.
It’s also home to a giant rearing crustacean, its forelegs dangling supreme over the streaming traffic below: Larry the Big Lobster who, in steel, hessian and carved polystyrene, has reigned supreme for three decades.
The local area is known for its lobster production and fishing fleet, and celebrates Lobsterfest every January. Larry was originally intended as a rooftop ornament for a building resembling a lobster pot, but the story goes that the design instructions got mixed up and he got built in metres instead of feet.
Driving into Kingston, perhaps a little weary from a long trip, it’s hard not to be struck by the 17m-high creature, which has a frightening leg span of 13.7m and is 15.2m from mouth to tail, especially when its orange mantle is backed by a wide blue sky.
It’s no long shot to picture it coming to life, and taking its pick of the cars and tracks passing by.
Location: The Big Lobster is on the Princes Highway in Kingston SE.
BIG MURRAY COD – Swan Hill, Victoria
Swan Hill is sleepy town on the banks of the River Murray, a waterway once flush with its own, rather enormous cod species.
Arnold, the gigantic, spotted, blue-and-green fish, is 15m long, 5.2m wide and 3m high with corrugated iron fins, and owes his existence to the necessity for a giant aquatic prop for the movie Eight Ball.
Arnold played an integral part in Eight Ball, uniting the two central characters. One of them, Charlie, is an ex-con working on the huge cod (in fiction, as in reality, intended for Swan Hill), and the other, Russell, is a young professional who chances upon the cod, and Charlie.
The two hit it off on the basis of a shared interest they discover when they strike up conversation: eight ball.
Following the shoot, the film’s producers donated the $35,000 fish to Swan Hill, and after some minor bureaucratic wrangling, it was unhooked next to the railway station behind the town.
Location: The Big Murray Cod is at Curlewis Street, Swan Hill.
BIG PINEAPPLE – Nambour, Queensland
Before we get to the Big Pineapple, let’s look at its nutty neighbour. In 1989, the owners of the giant yellow fruit decided they needed to offer something a little more to tourists. The result is the 16m-high, half-a-million-dollar Big Macadamia.
Originally at the centre of a macadamia theme park of sorts, the Big Mac, as it’s colloquially known, has also functioned as a nocturnal animal enclosure. The best view of the Big Macadamia, blending with its natural surroundings, is from the viewing platform across the road.
Meanwhile, the Big Pineapple is 18 years older and just as tall. If you stop by, there’s plenty of fresh fruit (not just pineapples) to buy, and there’s an exhibition about the pineapple harvesting process. You can climb up the inside of the pineapple itself, and wave from beneath its spiny stem.
Location: The Big Pineapple is at the Sunshine Plantation on the Nambour Connection Road off the Bruce Highway at Woombye south of Nambour, Qld.
BIG PENGUIN – Penguin, Tasmania
For sure, the expansive Sunday Penguin Markets are the primary attraction of the quirkily named north-Tas town, but the rather flightless 3.15m ferro-cement waddler is another popular drawcard.
Installed for the town’s centenary in 1975, the Big Penguin (or Big Fairy Penguin, as it is, more specifically) is kept company by a clutch of other larger-than-life penguins around town, including birds atop shops and imaginatively decorated rubbish bins.
Location: The Big Penguin is opposite the tourist information centre on the foreshore at Main Street, Penguin, Tas.
BIG MUSHROOM – Belconnen, ACT
One of the most recent additions to the big things registry, the fantastic fungus in the ACT’s Belconnen Markets wouldn’t be out of place in Alice in Wonderland. The Big Mushroom functions as a giant umbrella, and was established as sun-safety initiative by the Australian Cancer Society. At 15.6m across and 6m high, it offers plenty of shade to the children’s adventure playground below.
Location: The Big Mushroom is at Lathlain Street, Belconnen, ACT.
BIG GOLDEN GUITAR – Tamworth, New South Wales
The 12m-high Big Golden Guitar makes the comparatively minuscule Golden Guitar, the prestigious trophy presented to winners at the Tamworth Country Music festival, pale into insignificance – that is, if size really matters.
The fibreglass-and-steel instrument was officially welcomed into the world by country music legend Slim Dusty on the occasion of the 16th Tamworth Country Music Festival in 1988.
Stop by the Big Golden Guitar in January for the festival, and check the Gallery of Stars Wax Museum.
Location: The Big Golden Guitar is at 2 Ringers Road, Tamworth, NSW.
BIG WINE CASK – Buronga, New South Wales
Lateral thinking was all it took to create the 11m-long, 8m-tall and 7m-wide Big Wine Cask, which could, in theory, hold 400,000L of wine. The Stanley Winery’s water-purification plant was an otherwise unremarkable corrugated-iron structure until it received a cask-like coat of paint. Complete with a push-tab tap, this is probably the most practical big thing in the country, and relatively speaking, one of the cheapest to make.
Location: The Big Wine Cask is at the Stanley Winery in Buronga, NSW.
BIG BOXING CROCODILE – Humpty Doo, Northern Territory
Passing through Humpty Doo, if you spot a towering croc in gloves, missing his boxing shorts and spoiling for a fight, you’re not hallucinating. Intended as a fresh take on the tired big crocodile theme, the Big Boxing Croc stands 13m tall, and would give any boxing roo a run for its money – it’s cyclone-proof, so it should hold its own.
Location: The Big Boxing Croc is at the United service station at 340 Arnhem Highway in Humpty Doo, NT.
BIG GOLDEN GUMBOOT – Tully, Queensland
The highest-ever annual rainfall of any town in Australia was recorded in the north Qld town of Tully – 7.9m in 1950. The height of the gumboot (the perch for a similarly huge green tree frog) is commensurate with the rainfall record, and yes, it does function as a rain gauge. Inside, a spiral staircase leads to a viewing platform, offering a peek over the town’s sugar mill.
The boot’s genesis came after a flippant remark in the mid-1970s by ABC rural reporter David Howard about a potential Golden Gumboot award for the town with the greatest rainfall among three contenders – Babinda, Innisfail and Tully – which scored a pre-emptive strike and awarded itself.
Location: The Big Golden Gumboot is in Banyan Park at the bus transit centre at the entrance to the main street in Tully, Qld.
BIG WORM – Bass, Victoria
It’s a marvel in itself that someone would imagine that a 300m wander through the digestive tract of a giant earthworm (5m high and 7m wide) would attract so many visitors, but the Big Worm of Bass has endured as one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions.
The Big Worm is modelled after the reportedly endangered giant earthworm, which is endemic to the area.
The multi-hearted creature is difficult to safely remove from the ground, and is difficult to display to visitors, and although there was once a live display, it’s been deemed too risky to the creature’s wellbeing. Nevertheless, you can learn all about how the giant earthworm, which can grow to 3m long and 15cm fat, eats, excretes and survives.
Wildlife Wonderland is the main onsite attraction these days, offering busloads of international visitors their first up-close interaction with Australian native animals.
Location: The Big Worm is at Wildlife Wonderland, 36 Woollier Road, Bass, Vic,
More big things worth a mention:
- Big Beer Can, Cobar NSW
- Big Merino, Goulburn NSW
- Big Cigar, Churchill Vic
- Big Ned Kelly, Glenrowan Vic
- Big Spud, Sassafras Tas
- Big Oyster, Ceduna SA
- Big Galah, Kimba SA
- Big Pie, Yatala Qld
- Big Barrel, Bundaberg Qld
- And the rather surprising: Big Poo, Kiama NSW