Even if you’ve never heard of a “Big Thing”, chances are that you’d recognize one if you saw it. Quite simply, it’s a giant replica of something that stands on highways and outside stores across Australia. They are things that are big, hence Big Things. Simple when you think about it!
The most iconic – and arguably first- Big Thing is the Big Banana at Coff’s Harbour. It stands atop a banana-themed souviner shop and in front of a giant inflatable slide the size of a building (the Banana Slip). But while it’s big (13m long by 5m tall), it’s nowhere near the biggest Big Thing in Australia. And some say that it’s not even the first – that honor goes to the Big Scotsman in Medindie, built around the same time.
The famous Giant Pineapple also just misses out on being in the “Biggest Big Things” list, at 16m tall and 6m wide. So, what did make the list? Using advanced scientific methods (also known as “math”), we are pleased to bring you the Top 10 Biggest Big Things:
10. The Giant Koala, Stawell
Let’s start with something quintessentially Australian. At 14m tall and 8m across, this Big Thing is comfortably Big enough to make the list. It also has an unnerving stare. It was built in 1988 by Ben Van Zetton and is made out of bronze. Located at Dadswell Bridge, near Stawell, it sits just in front of the Grampian Range of mountains, and the koala is known as the “Guardian of the Grampians”. It’s also informally known as Sam. If you fancy visiting Sam, you can also pop into his very own tavern and ice-creamery. That’s one enterprising koala!
9. The Big Pheasant, Tynong
The Big Pheasant sits at the gates of Gumbuya Park, an amusement park that was unsurprisingly enough a pheasant farm until it was converted in 1978. At Gumbuya, you can go tobogganing, paddle boats, try out the water slide or play mini golf. You can even meet Australian wildlife like wallabies and kangaroos. What you’re not encouraged to do is to follow in the footsteps of a 23-year-old Poowong man, who destroyed the rear of the pheasant with explosives in October 2011. It was restored in April 2012 and now stands proudly at 17m tall. Tynong, in case you’re wondering, is a town of 683 people to the South East of Melbourne.
8. The Big Mandarin, Mandubbara
You’re at a caravan park, you need an ice-cream, what do you do? Well, in Mandubbara, Queensland, you head to the nearest giant citrus fruit and hope it doubles as a ice-cream kiosk like this one does. It’s 11m high and 15m wide and is almost the biggest citrus fruit in Australia. Mandubbara means either “Footsteps in the Trees” or “Meeting of the Waters”, as it’s close to where the Burnett, Auburn and Boyne Rivers meet.
The town is a large producer of citrus fruits, hence the iconic Big Thing, and the first citrus orchards were planted by Henry Zipf there in 1933. It even calls itself, “The Citrus Capital of Queensland”, although its neighbor Gayndah also claims the title with their annual Orange Festival.
7. The Big Orange, Berri
And here is the fruit that kept the mandarin from being the biggest citrus fruit in Australia – the Big Orange! Built in 1980, it measures 15×12, so just one meter one way bigger than the Mandarin. At the time, it was the biggest sphere in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the owners said it was the only Big Thing which had a business operating inside. It’s been sold a number of times, most recently in 2008, but has never been really commercially viable and has been redundant for a great deal of its life. Inside, there are four levels and it includes a cafe/souvenir shop and a lookout room. However, the building hasn’t been used since its last sale and in December 2011, the signs directing tourists towards the Big Orange were removed.
6. The Big Barrel, Bundaberg
On the other hand, this Big Barrel is fully functioning as a tourist attraction, with a visitor center celebrating the Bundaberg ginger beer. It has interactive displays and even a 3D hologram adventure called “Doug’s Promised Land”. The visitor center was opened by the then Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile. The barrel is huge – 25m by 10m, but has been discounted by some Big Thing enthusiasts as “just a building, cleverly disguised as a barrel”.
It’s in Bundaberg East, not far from the ocean, in the state of Queensland. Nearby is Moore Park, with its 20km of golden beach, and Bundaberg is also a good access point to the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Can the city boast a real Big Thing though? That’s debatable…
5. The Big Lobster, Kingston
Larry the Lobster, on the other hand, is a classic Australian Big Thing. It’s beloved by locals, who gave it the name, and sits in front of a visitor center and a restaurant owned by Kath and Eric Peltz. At 17mx15mx13m, it’s pretty massive but it wasn’t meant to be this way – originally it was intended as a roof ornament, but the plans got mixed up along the way and the measurements in feet were read as being in meters. The designer Paul Kelly still managed to complete it in six months though!
Larry is a popular tourist attraction and has succeeded in bringing visitors to the restaurant and now his own gift shop. He’s not even too much trouble to his owners. Kath Peltz says this about him: “We have to get a cherry-picker every few years to paint it a mixture of orange, black and white, but besides that the only real work has been when it lost its big front feelers in a storm and we had to repair them.” So with a unintended size, local fans and low levels of upkeep, you can see why Larry is one of Australia’s favorite Big Things.
4. The Big Dugong, Rockhampton
If you’re not sure what a dugong is, you’re probably in good company. It’s a large and obscure marine mammal, related to the mannatee. And this is a really big one (22mx12m) located outside the Rockhampton Dreamtime Cultural Center. The Dreamtime Centers are dedicated to Aborigine culture and this one is set on the land of the Darambal tribe. Visitors can go on guided tours, where they hear didgeridoo players and watch djarn djarn dancers in an effort to understand the dream state attained by the Aborigines. Why any of this involves a massive marine mammal, I’m not sure but dugong meat used to be a central part of the Aborigine diet. So, you can enter a higher state of consciousness and see a giant Big Thing at the same time.
3. The Big Merino, Goulburn
And the Big Things just keep getting bigger! This merino ram is a huge 15m by 18m and was built in 1985 as a tribute to Australia’s wool industry. He was modeled on and named after a local ram called “Rambo” and he was designed by Attila and Louis Mokany. In 1992, the Hume Highway started bypassing the city of Goulburn and the visitor numbers to the ram dropped dramatically. He then moved 800m to be in sight of the highway again, and has since had a renaissance in visitors. He now houses a permanent exhibition, covering the 200 year history of the wool industry in Australia. And, of course a gift shop to buy wool-related presents.
2. The Big Rocking Horse, Gumeracha
Set in the Adelaide Hills, you’ll find another giant Big Thing. At 18mx17m it’s a fitting tribute to the wooden toy factory in the same complex. It was designed by David McIntosh and John Twopenny and was opened in 1981. Originally, factory owner Wal Wilkinson chose a 5m-high giraffe to promote the factory, which was built in 1973. This was replaced by a 3m-tall rocking horse, then a 5m-tall one before, finally, he decided to build this one. It took 8 months to complete and changed hands (along with the factory) a few times before being bought by a South African couple. It is now is open to the public, with 3 viewing platforms providing views over the neighboring wildlife park.
1. The Giant Worm, Bass
Slightly disappointingly, the biggest Big Thing of them all isn’t the highest or the most impressive. But it is the longest. At 250mx4m, it’s modeled on the Giant Gippsland earthworm, who itself is an impressive beast at up to 3m long. The Giant Worm here is actually an earthworm museum, allowing tourists to crawl through the worm’s burrow and a fake worm-stomach. Sounds exciting, hey?
Bass itself is a rural town of 937 people, on the Bass Coast, south-east of Melbourne. It may not sound like it has much to offer but it’s home to Australia’s biggest Big Thing, and that is a title that is highly sought after!