Australia's Best Big Things
WRITTEN BY: BEN SMITHURST
Improbably outsized Big Things are the heartbeat of many Australian road trips. Here are some of our best. Electricity bills and heart attacks aside, bigger is almost always better. Humans have always been attracted to giant stuff—and not just because of gravity.
From Edmund Hillary to Uluru’s 250,000 annual visitors, mankind yearns to get close to things that are a good deal larger than other, comparable things. Regional councils and businesses figured out how to capitalise on this in the 1960s. Unveiled in that decade, many of Australia’s original Big Things are still around today, such as Adelaide’s Big Scotsman (1963), and Coffs Harbour’s Kong-sized Big Banana (1964).
Like Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams baseball diamond, few of this nation’s XXXL things makes sense on paper. Today, Australia boasts over 150 bona fide ‘Big Things’, with the number stretching to over 300 if you allow a more flexible definition of, well, ‘big’. Here’s our definitive list of the 15 outsized highway-adjacent attractions that ought to be on your bucket list. How many have you seen?
THE BIG BOGAN
The hub of the Bogan Shire in western NSW, Nyngan had for years watched bemused as tourists stopped for selfies with various local signs: the Bogan River, the Bogan Lolly Shop, etc. Built to leverage this phenomenon in 2015, the Big Bogan—a six-metre chap sporting a mullet, southern cross tatt, and double-pluggers—caused some controversy when proposed. “The Big Banana is (there) because they grow bananas,” local café manager Robin Harris told reporters. “The Big Crayfish is (there) because they cultivate crayfish. Are we going to be a town known for cultivating idiots?”
THE BIG BANANA
Coffs Harbour, NSW
One of Australia’s oldest Big Things, the 13-metre concrete banana on NSW’s Mid North coast was once a merely disappointing trifle built by the owner of an adjacent banana plantation, lined with brochures. It’s now an award-winning fun park with a giant slide, mini golf, ice skating, laser tag, a toboggan ride and a water park. The meganana is a deadset icon of roadside bigness, although beware—a day out here isn’t necessarily cheap.
THE BIG LOBSTER
Despite designing both Medindie’s Big Scotsman and Kingston’s Big Lobster, legendary South Australian Big Thing architect Paul Kelly remains, cruelly, Australia’s least-famous famous person called Paul Kelly. Larry the Lobster, the great man’s design in Kingsford, was ranked No. 1 ‘Best Big Thing’ in a recent ABC Rural poll. It’s 18-metres high, made of steel and fibreglass and houses a properly good old-school takeaway joint in its tail. Perfect—and a bit scary.
THE GIANT MURRAY COD
Swan Hill, Vic
There are three ways to tell north-western Victoria’s Big Cod from the real thing: first, at 11 metres, the statue is over six times the length of the living fish; second, the Big Cod is made of fibreglass, whereas the sentient cod is made of cod; and third, unlike the actual fish, the statue was built as a prop for the forgotten 1991 Australian film Eight Ball. Also, they are nothing alike. A pleasant stop for a cuppa, albeit without much else nearby to recommend it.
THE BIG PENGUIN
Erected in the heady delirium of the centenary of the Penguin township in 1975, Penguin’s three-metre fairy penguin bears an uncanny resemblance to the star of 1980s Swiss children’s TV Claymation series Pingu Depending on the date, you may see the Big Penguin dressed in fatigues (Anzac Day), pink (for Breast Cancer Awareness Month), or as Santa in December (reason unknown).
THE BIG GALAH
Towering eight metres above the arid earth a couple of hours north of Port Lincoln, Kimba’s colossal pink-and-grey cockatoo looms over the horizon like an Alf Stewart cheese dream. The slightly terrifying bird stands guard outside a combination servo and bakery that marks the halfway point across Australia.
THE BIG POTATO
In July 2022, the ABC reported that the Southern Highlands Big Potato had been declared Australia’s worst Big Thing by a comedy website, seeing off "stiff rivalry from Queensland’s Nazi-saluting Captain Cook” and “Kalgoorlie’s ‘World’s Tallest Bin’”. But the four-metre high Sebago, built in 1977, is cherished by Robbo's 1200 locals. Either way, the town is worth visiting for its even more iconic Robertson Pie Shop (which predates the spud by 16 years).
THE BIG BOXING CROCODILE
Humpty Doo, NT
Giant crocodile statues are surprisingly common—there are at least three rival concrete crocs in Queensland and another in WA. But Humpty Doo’s is something special. And not least because it goes the extra mile to scare tourists by implying that as well as eating you, the saltwater croc may first go the biff. That’s not the only reason Humpty Doo’s 15-metre fighting reptile doesn’t make sense—for example, it was unveiled in 1988, to celebrate Australia’s win in the America’s Cup yacht race. In 1983. By a yacht that had a boxing kangaroo on it. Cycloneproofing the build cost $137K.
THE BIG CANE TOAD
“When you’re on a good thing, stick to it” was a fair summation of Queensland’s State of Origin selection policy in the late 2000s. It’s the same attitude evolution has taken with their namesake cane toad (Latin name: Bufo marinus). Fossilised toads dating back up to 11 million years have been found in South America that are identical to the modern beast. ‘Buffy’, on the Bruce Highway, began life as a paper mache float for a sugar festival in 1983. Later cast in fibreglass, she now lives in Sarina, at a shaded picnic area.
THE GIANT KOALA
Dadswells Bridge, VIC
Not to be confused with Victoria's other large marsupial— the Big Koala in Cowes—Dadswell Bridge’s version is a 12-tonne, multistorey monument in steel, fibreglass and bronze. It dominates the landscape with a combination of red-eyed, 17-coffee stare and a semicubic head that resembles nothing so much as that of former LNP Attorney-General George Brandis. Its expression indicates that it's just realised there’s a gift shop in its groin. Would beat Cowes’s koala in a fight.
THE BIG LOLLYPOP
Holding the (possibly uncontested) title as the world’s largest freestanding lollypop since 2019, Ravensthorpe’s megapop was built by the owners of the adjacent Yummylicious Candy Shack. Measuring seven and a half metres tall and four metres wide, the multicoloured ’pop was built after a two-year approvals process resulted in a council green light. “I’m in shock,” said owner Belinda McHurg, in 2019. “I’ve been waiting so long for this and fought hard for it.”
THE BIG NED KELLY
A stirring tribute to a hairy Irish murderer/iconic oppression-battling larrikin, Glenrowan’s six-metre, two-tonne bushranger was unveiled (if not de-helmeted) in 1992. “Big things seemed to be all the rage at the time,” said Ned Kelly memorial museum owner and local Chris Gerret, “so we decided to build a Big Ned Kelly to keep up.” Ned himself famously made his brave last stand nearby in 1880.
THE BIG PINEAPPLE
Between Noosa and Caloundra towers a 16-metre fibreglass pineapple that attracted over a million visitors a year at its peak—including a presumably confused Charles and Di on their 1983 Royal Tour. COVID's wake has left the pineapple itself much diminished. On the upside, the 170-hectare site features several other distinct businesses, all worthy destinations, including a charming small zoo, high-rope and zipline Tree Top Challenge and Sunshine & Sons, a small-batch gin distillery. And the colossal fruit itself, a relic from a lost, golden age: the Seventies.
THE BIG MERINO
Over 15-metres high, 18-metres long and tipping the scales at a stupendous 100 tonnes, Goulburn's Big Merino was opened in 1985. It was then moved 800m southwest in 2007 when a bypass left 'Rambo' stranded in no man's land. (The council took the opportunity to construct three new legs and a "more complete, free-standing" underbelly, giving the ovine colossus a truly three-dimensional shape.) Pop into the gift shop, bone up on the history of wool and buy an ugg boot or two. Or just climb to the top to look out through the jumbo ram's eyeholes at the local area, like a Scooby-Doo villain peering out from a painting.