Australians love big things. We take a small object, turn it into a large cultural icon, and people keep coming back for more.
In fact, more than 150 “Big Things” can be found scattered across the country. Whether it’s the iconic Big Banana or peering through the Big Merino’s eyes, they never fail to ignite the imaginations of children and adults alike.
Sydney’s big contribution is the famous Coke Billboard, frequently cited by proud locals as one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
Presiding over the intersection of Darlinghurst Road and William Street in King’s Cross since 1974, the red and white neon sign is made up of two kilometres of rope LED lighting and stretches 41 metres across.
It’s a landmark that’s featured in news photography, happy snaps, music videos, and especially when giving directions: we’ll see you under the Coke sign!
For some summer fun we’ve uncovered the secret history behind some of Australia's most whacky tributes to novelty architecture.
The Big Banana was built in 1964 in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, as a way of attracting traffic to a roadside banana stall. The walk-through concrete structure is still in the same place, although it’s now nestled in a banana theme park featuring water games, a toboggan slide, ice skating rink and café.
Just up the highway, Ballina’s Big Prawn came close to the proverbial barbecue in 2009 when the local council voted to demolish it. However, the 6x9 metre giant crustacean was given a last minute reprieve after locals got behind a “Save the Prawn” campaign that won international media coverage. It now sits in front of the town’s Bunnings Warehouse.
Nambour’s Big Pineapple, located in the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, was built in 1971. Its unveiling was greeted by large crowds and the owners received a tourism award for its impact on the agricultural town. These days it’s home to a huge artisan market and an annual music festival.
Further north, the Queensland town of Bowen hosts the Big Mango, easily a candidate for Australia's most delicious “big thing”. The ten-metre mango is located on the Bruce Highway in far north Queensland, and celebrates the fruit for which the town is best known. First grown in the area in the 1800s, mangoes are now the town’s main crop, making it a popular stop for backpackers on the harvest trail.
Built in 1985, the Big Merino towers over the Hume Highway as it snakes past the NSW town of Goulburn. Based on “Rambo”, a local stud ram, the Big Merino was a popular tourist destination in the 1980s, but sent owners broke in the 1990s when the Goulbourn bypass took tourists away from the town. In May 2007 the 97 tonne sheep was moved 800 metres towards the highway to once again attract passing visitors who can climb up into the Big Merino’s head and peer out its eyes.
Tamworth, Australia’s country music capital boasts the Big Golden Guitar, a 12-metre tall statue that replicates the Golden Guitar awarded to Australia’s best country music singers at the Country Music Awards. The enormous musical monolith was unveiled in 1988 by country music legend Slim Dusty.
This story was originally published on 05/02/2014.