7 strangest things I’ve seen around Australia
I've done plenty of road tripping in my time - in fact, last year, my family and I packed up and set out on a 14,500km road trip around Australia.
So if you're on a road trip, which Big Things are worth the stop, and which are better bypassed?
Here are seven of the best and most bizarre Big Things I've encountered on my travels Down Under:
BIG FRILLED-NECK LIZARD
It may be Ploddy the Dinosaur that catches drivers' attention when heading north from Sydney on the M1, but the Australian Reptile Park has another "big thing" that's arguably more realistic and impressive. A giant frilled-neck lizard "hisses" at visitors as they enter this Central Coast wildlife park. Although the reptile isn't what draws you to this award-winning tourist attraction, it does make a great impression, especially on the hordes of children who celebrate their birthdays there.
The reason I think it's worth checking out is that it's the precursor to a fantastic day of meeting lizards, snakes, 'roos and turtles.
RATING: 4 stars because the sculpture is lifelike and the park makes for a fun family excursion.
Some of Australia's strangest "big things" are in our smallest towns, as they're primarily used to entice tourists out of their cars and into local businesses. After travelling along the Flinders Highway on a hot day, The Big Kronosaurus in Outback Queensland caught me off-guard, so I had to pull over for a closer inspection.
Given a kronosaurus is believed to have grown up to 11m long, this blue replica isn't exactly a giant version but it's odd and marks the entrance to Richmond's Kronosaurus Korner information centre.
If you love dinosaurs, you'll want to stop here as a museum houses more than a thousand fossils and Richmond is on the Australian Dinosaur Trail.
RATING:4 stars because it's quirky and offers road-trippers respite.
BIG GOLDEN GUITAR
Moving away from animals and edibles, Australia's country music capital, Tamworth, has one helluva "big thing" - a towering Golden Guitar. It's worth a stop, too, as it's not only great for photographers (you'll have to stand far back to fit it all in), but marks the entrance to a wonderful tourist centre. Whether you love the twang of a country ballad or not, the centre has a gallery of guitars, as well as a Gallery of Stars wax museum, The Collectors' Museum (dedicated to Sir Don Bradman), a cafe and a gift shop.
RATING: 4 stars because it's a great representation of what the town is famous for, and there is so much to do at the centre.
One of the most well-kept "big things" I've come across is the Big Penguin in the tiny village of Penguin, Tasmania. Known for the little penguins that come ashore at dusk and nest along the rocky coast, it's only fitting there's a 3m-high statue in their honour.
The figure was built in 1975 to commemorate 100 years since the village was named. What makes it so great is kids love it. It's next to a cool playground (the main reason we stopped) and opposite a great cafe. You can tell locals are proud of their wildlife drawcard, too, as they're known to dress the man-made version up in the local football jersey.
RATING: 3 stars because it's in good shape and the village is a worthy stop.
When it comes to Australia's "big things", none is more cemented in our collective memory than the Sunshine Coast's Big Pineapple. In its '70s and '80s heyday, the former pineapple plantation attracted more than a million visits annually and you'd be hard-pressed to find an east coast family without a dorky holiday snap in front of the 16m-high piece of fibreglass fruit. Even Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited in 1983.
So, it was without a doubt that I'd call in as I passed recently with my husband and three-year-old son.
The 170ha property is in various states of disrepair, with empty old buildings requiring a lot of love. But you can explore the property aboard a train, which my son adored, and disembark at Wildlife HQ to say g'day to koalas, monkeys and meerkats.
In 2019, dairy-free producer COYO will move production to The Big Pineapple, while a high-ropes and zip-line course is nearing completion. All in all, we left excited about the icon's revitalisation plans, and, of course, with some cheesy photos in front of the fruit.
RATING: 2.5 stars because it has a bright future.
WEST BALLINA, NSW
There are a few big prawns gracing Australian businesses, but the best one is at West Ballina, in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.
Instead of drawing your attention to a seafood shop, as you might expect, this enormous, 35-tonne crustacean is out the front of a Bunnings Warehouse.
Given that it has nothing to do with the hardware store (unless they throw shrimp on their fundraising barbecues), this has to be one of the strangest "big things" I've come across. Nevertheless, it's in good nick (thanks to a $400,000 makeover in 2013), and therefore is worth a silly photo in your Instagram gallery.
RATING: 2.5 stars because it has zero relevance.
The cheeky PR stunt of 2014 which saw Bowen's Big Mango "stolen" brought plenty of attention to the Whitsundays town and its agriculture industry, but don't count on picking up any fresh mangoes from this tourist attraction.
Excited to be in mango country, I skipped past the 10m-high sculpture and tables of Grey Nomad bus passengers with the intention of stocking up on the sweet fruit. But, alas, mangoes are rarely sold here. Instead, you can buy pureed mango sorbet ($4.50 for the equivalent of a small scoop), and mango chutneys. The Big Mango was built in 2002 to boost tourism, and stands proudly outside Bowen Tourist Information Centre, so stop here to pick up brochures and take selfies but satisfy your mango cravings elsewhere.
RATING: 2.5 stars because the gateway to Bowen should sell trays of mangoes in season.
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