It’s a national fascination that can be hard to explain: our quirky obsession with “big things”. On long drives, fingers point and faces press up against dust-covered windows. “There’s The Big Pineapple, kids... Not long until we reach The Big Prawn.” Part mischievousness, part 750-kilometre road-trip necessity, the towering produce, animals and seafood that dot the country have become Australian icons. This is what makes them larger than life.
The Big Prawn: Ballina, NSW
It was once possible to get a prawn’s- eye view of this northern NSW town thanks to a spiral staircase inside the concrete crustacean, which led curious tourists into its black beady oculus. The staircase was closed as the years went on and in 2013 the faded pink shellfish was moved from its original spot, above a cafeteria, to the front of a Bunnings store. Journalist Robin Osborne, who’s written two books about the prawn, laments the loss of the stairs because the experience isn’t as interactive as it once was. But with the move, The Big Prawn scored a $400,000 makeover, including a fresh coat of paint and, for the first time, a proper tail. It’s a tribute to the region’s thriving seafood industry and will, hopefully, stand guard for decades to come.
The Big Pineapple: Woombye, QLD
This oversized tropical fruit, in all its crowning glory, received a royal seal of approval in 1983, when Princess Diana and Prince Charles stopped by to marvel at its fibreglass fronds. And how could they not? It’s the pièce de résistance of Australia’s big fruit salad, so significant that it and the Pineapple Train, which circles the property’s plantation, have been added to the Queensland Heritage Register. Though The Big Pineapple doesn’t get the million-plus visitors a year that it did in the big things’ heyday of the 1980s, there are plans to modernise the Sunshine Coast site and add new attractions by 2025. In the meantime, there’s The Big Pineapple Music Festival, held each May, drawing Australian music heavyweights including Birds of Tokyo and Vera Blue.
The Big Potato: Robertson, NSW
No pink-skinned desiree or dainty white nadine, this 10-metre-long concrete tater is more like a Dutch cream (a variety grown in Robertson). It’s not the most attractive big thing on the map but therein lies the appeal. Councillor Jim Mauger came up with the idea as a way to pay homage to farmers in the misty mountain town. Some 40 years later, the bulbous vegie is still photographed by Southern Highlands daytrippers, with busloads of tourists stopping to snap selfies and picnickers commandeering tables in the landscaped garden. One enterprising couple was even married in front of the spud. And if you’re looking for a gift for that hard-to-buy-for, kitsch- loving friend, you’re in luck – the tuber is currently for sale.
The Big Lobster: Kingston SE, SA
In early 2017, Larry the Lobster went under the knife – it seems even insentient beings feel the pressure to look their best on social media. He got the full gamut, including a thorough scrub, a new set of feelers and structural repairs. Even if you haven’t been to the Limestone Coast, there’s a chance you’ve heard of the four-tonne shellfish, as comedians Hamish Blake and Andy Lee attempted to help fund a refurbishment with their #PinchAMate campaign in 2016. A trip to see Larry is all about the photograph – he is, after all, one of the country’s biggest big things.
The Giant Koala: Dadswells Bridge, Vic
This large marsupial is now known as Sam, in honour of the koala that captured hearts the world over when she was photographed drinking from a water bottle proffered by a firefighter in burned bushland in 2009. Located in western Victoria’s Wimmera region, the attraction is 14 metres high, seven metres wide and made from 12 tonnes of steel, fibreglass and bronze – so she’s not as cuddly as one imagines the Australian native to be but she’s memorable none the less. Now nearing the big three-oh, The Giant Koala was designed by Dutch sculptor Ben Van Zetten at the behest of Beryl Cowling, the then owner of Koala Country Kitchen and Koala Country Motor Inn. Today, there’s a gift shop inside and a small zoo on site.
The Big Banana: Coffs Harbour, NSW
If a family drives through the Mid-North Coast and doesn’t pull over for a photo in front of The Big Banana, is it even a holiday? A pit stop at this iconic piece of fruit has been a must-do for Pacific Highway travellers ever since the 13-metre-long ‘nana came to be in the ‘60s. It’s modelled on the shapeliest banana that engineer Alan Chapman could find as he mocked up the plans. At the time, there was nothing at the site but a plantation filled with The Big Banana’s smaller siblings but as the years progressed, a milk bar serving frothy banana shakes became part of the attraction. Then came a toboggan track and later, a water park, laser-tag arena and minigolf course.
The Big Merino: Goulburn, NSW
What do you call a 100-tonne ram? Rambo, of course. Positioned near a Hume Highway exit in the Southern Highlands and built in 1985, Rambo surveys the surrounding farmland – and nearby fast-food outlets – with a pensive look. In 2007, The Big Merino was moved a few hundred metres up the road to better capture the attention of passing traffic. He received three new legs and a new belly, plus you can now go inside to see an exhibition on the Australian wool industry. Every now and then, Rambo gets dressed up, such as in 2015 when he was given glowing green eyes as part of a clean-energy promotion (the result was a curiously radioactive-looking sheep). During 2014’s Blue September, held to raise awareness of men’s cancers, including testicular cancer, the corresponding appendage was painted royal blue.
While there’s no official count of Australia’s big things, there are thought to be more than 100. Here are nine more treasures you’ll find by the side of the road, from the very big to the not-so-big...
The Big Easel Emerald: QLD
It’s not the first place you’d expect to see a van Gogh but the Central Highlands has a huge replica of one of his Sunflowers paintings, erected in honour of the region’s sunflower growers.
The Big Rocking Horse: Gumeracha, SA
You’ll find this sweet 18-metre-high replica in the Adelaide Hills. Visitors can climb on its back before popping in to the nearby wooden-toy factory and wildlife park.
The Big Golden Guitar: Tamworth, NSW
Next door to this gilded instrument, which has stood in the New England town since 1988, is a wax museum featuring the heroes of Australian country music.
The Big Mango: Bowen, QLD
This drupe was the subject of a scandal in 2014 when it went missing from the Whitsundays town. It was later revealed to be a PR stunt for a new sauce at a fast-food restaurant.
The Big Boxing Croc: Humpty Doo, NT
As if crocodiles aren’t terrifying enough, imagine encountering this fella on a dusty highway out of Darwin. He’s thought to be about six metres high.
The Giant Ram: Wagin, WA
Not to be confused with The Big Merino, this all- white ram lives in Wetlands Park in the Great Southern region. He’s four metres smaller than the Merino and weighs four tonnes.
The Big Bogan: Nyngan, NSW
It doesn’t get more Aussie than this: a six-metre-tall bloke with a Southern Cross tattoo, Esky and fishing rod giving passers-by a friendly thumbs up as they drive through Bogan Shire.
The Big Ned Kelly: Glenrowan, Vic
This statue marks the bushranger’s last stand, which happened in this High Country town in 1880. The site of the siege and capture of the Kelly gang was heritage listed in 2005.
The Big Penguin: Penguin, Tas
Standing guard on the scenic esplanade, The Big Penguin protects the town of Penguin on the north-west coast. At Christmas, he gets into the festive spirit by donning a Santa suit.
SEE ALSO: The Best Road Trips Around Australia