Big is Australia's middle name. It's the world's largest island, home to the world's biggest monolith (maybe) and where you can see the...Big Banana. If you thought things were big in Texas, wait until you discover Australia’s fascination for all things elephantine and concrete. Why not take a road trip around the country and see them all.
1. Golden Gumboot, Queensland
In a dry, brown country, it’s an unlikely slanging match: is Tully or Babinda the wettest town in Australia? The two north Queensland towns vie publicly to be known as the soggiest spot, right down to an annual Golden Gumboot Festival celebrating the rivalry. In Tully they’ve gone a step further, erecting a large Golden Gumboot (with a green tree frog scaling its side) as a monument to the town’s 150 days of rain each year. It’s a battle only half won, however, with rumour long suggesting that Babinda has plans to build a Big Umbrella. For the record, Tully has recorded Australia’s highest annual rainfall: 7.9m in 1950. The Golden Gumboot Festival is held each May.
2. Big Penguin, Tasmania
By Australian standards, the island state of Tasmania is small but it does have the Big Penguin, in a town named Penguin where, true to the name, penguins come ashore each night. The Big Penguin stands on the Penguin foreshore, among penguin-shaped rubbish bins and stores filled with such things as inflatable waving penguins. Even the fire station is decked out in penguins. If you’ve travelled all this way to see a concrete and fibreglass penguin, you’ll probably want to stick around to see the prototypes. They shuffle ashore between about September and March at - yes - Penguin Point. Talk about obsession. Penguin is midway between Burnie and Devonport on Tasmania’s north coast.
3. Big Lobster, South Australia
They catch some pretty big lobsters along South Australia’s southeast coast, but nothing in the league of the steel and fibreglass lobster that lords it over the seaside town of Kingston. Built in the 1970s (by the same man responsible for the landmark big bagpiper on Scotty’s Motel in Adelaide), this critter’s antennae rise to a height of 17m and, unlike some of Australia’s big things, it actually looks like the animal it represents. Inside the structure known locally as Larry is a restaurant where, naturally, you can slurp down a lobster for dinner.
4. Big Submarine, New South Wales
Finally, a big something with some semblance of meaning, even if no sense of direction. Surfacing in Holbrook, midway between Sydney and Melbourne, on the country’s busiest highway, hundreds of kilometres from the nearest port, is this 90m-long submarine with an unusual backstory. Before WWI, Holbrook was known as Germanton, but following a daring submarine attack in the Dardanelles, guided by English commander Norman Holbrook, the town’s title was de-Germanised and the lieutenant’s name adopted instead. Holbrook (the town) went a step further in 1997, purchasing the decommissioned submarine HMAS Otway and displaying it in a park. The town is on the Hume Highway, around 400km from Melbourne and 500km from Sydney.
5. Big Pineapple, Queensland
If Australia has a patriarch of ‘big things’, it is the Big Pineapple in Woombye. Once said to be the second-most-visited tourist attraction in the country (behind the Sydney Opera House), it was famously part of the 1983 royal tour by Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Rising 16m above the pineapple fields of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, it’s been a family favourite for decades, even earning a place on the heritage register. After going into receivership in 2009, the Big Pineapple has recently been touted as the possible site of a motor-racing museum. The Big Pineapple is 7km south of the Sunshine Coast town of Nambour, near the Bruce Highway.
6. Big Boxing Crocodile, Northern Territory
Not content just to have a silly name, the town of Humpty Doo upped the ante by erecting one of the country’s silliest big things. Most visitors pass the 8m-high Big Croc on the drive between Darwin and Kakadu National Park. It can be seen wearing a grin – and boxing gloves. The town itself is a testament to overly ambitious thought, having been established with a postwar plan to turn the surrounding flood plain into a sea of rice fields. It failed. So the town cheered itself up with a very large crocodile. Humpty Doo is 40km from Darwin. Turn off the Stuart Highway onto the Arnhem Highway and it’s just ahead.
7. Big Banana, New South Wales
The original, and perhaps still the best. At a bend of its own in the Pacific Highway in Coffs Harbour, the Big Banana was unpeeled to the public in 1964. Since then it’s stopped millions of travellers on one of Australia’s busiest highways, even if it was once voted the ‘most bizarre and grotesque tourist attraction in the world’. If it’s so much as brushed past a banana it can be purchased inside the Big Banana complex: banana milkshakes, bunches of bananas, banana jam, banana stubby holders. Not to be mistaken for the other Big Banana in Carnarvon on Australia’s west coast. The Big Banana is on the Pacific Highway, just north of Coffs’ city centre.
8. Big Rocking Horse, South Australia
Yes, almost all of Australia’s native animals have been immortalised as big things, but so too has an ‘animal’ as obscure as the rocking horse. High in the Adelaide Hills, in the town of Gumeracha, it’s the showpiece for a local wooden toy factory. Visitors can climb through the horse to three vantage points: one on the rockers, one on the saddle, and one atop the horse’s head. It is impressively large,weighing 25 tonnes, set into 80 tonnes of concrete and rising more than 18m above the ground. But, no, it doesn’t rock. Check out the rocking horse (and the wooden toys) at thetoyfactory.com.au.
9. Big Galah, South Australia
If you’ve taken the time to drive halfway across Australia, you can probably be excused for thinking that you’re hallucinating. But that pink bird by the petrol station in the small highway town of Kimba really is an 8m-high galah, that most raucous and iconic of Australian bush birds. Why it’s here is anybody’s guess, and whether it’s really the halfway point across the country is another guess, but it’s been perched here for almost 30 years so just go with the flow…big things sometimes come with big claims. Kimba is 1700km west of Sydney and 2200km east of Perth.
10 Gloucester Tree, Western Australia
After all the manufactured kitsch, how about a natural high in the endemic karri forests of southern WA? Growing to 90m, karris are among the tallest trees in the world and a number of them once served as fire lookout towers. Today, three have been converted into ‘climbing trees’, with visitors ascending their trunks on metal spikes to platforms built into their canopies. The most popular climbing tree is the Gloucester Tree, at the edge of the town of Pemberton, with its platform 60m above the forest floor. Even higher, at 75m, is the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree. Head out of Pemberton on central Ellis Street, turning left onto Kennedy Street and then right onto Johnston Street; the tree is 3km out of town.