It’s not a secret that Australia loves it’s “Big Things”. They are all over the place, sticking up into the landscape and demanding a selfie or crazy group photo. They are a fun stop on a road trip, and something to brag about seeing to your mates. Here are the big things in South Australia to tick off next time you are driving around the state.
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- 1 History of South Australia’s Big Things
- 2 Big Things in South Australia I’ve Seen
- 3 More South Australian Big Things
- 4 South Australia Big Things Map
History of South Australia’s Big Things
These Big Things are formally known as “Shire Promotional Grotesques” and that explains a little more about them. They are generally built as advertising, or an inducement in small towns to get passing traffic to stop. As the cars stop to take a photo, they might also buy a snack or meal or explore the town further – I know I do when I see something like this!
South Australia can also claim to be the initiators of the Big Thing movement, as the very first one was built here. Some Big Things are clearly just that, others are a little more controversial. Is a large statue a “Big Thing”? It’s hard to say. There are now around 25-30 Big Things around the state.
Big Things in South Australia I’ve Seen
I’ve seen quite a few of the South Australian Big Things as I have travelled around the state, but there are even more than I am yet to see personally, so I will split this list into two parts. Over time, I hope to move all the Big Things onto this part of the list as I get to see them all.
The Big Scotsman
Built in 1963, the Big Scotsman (above) was the very first Big Thing in Australia. Often the Big Banana in New South Wales is given this title, but “Scotty” was built a year earlier. He is located just north of the city centre on the corner of Main North Road and Nottage Terrace in Medindie, decorating the facade of Scotty’s Motel. Travelling south along Main North Road, which in the 1960s was the main arterial road leading into Adelaide from the north, he cannot be missed, and often drew visitors in to stay at the motel.
Just this year (2021) the Big Scotsman has hit the headlines again. There is talk that the area he is in is going to be rezoned and he will have to come down. There is already a push to save Scotty and find another place for him to live out his days.
The Big Lobster
Built by the same person who built the Big Scotsmen, Larry is one of the best known Big Things in South Australia. He can be found at Kingston in the state’s Southeast, an area well known for it’s lobster fishing industry. He was built in 1979 to attract visitors to the visitor centre and restaurant he sits in front of. Rumour has it that he was not meant to have been 17 metres tall. The design was for a 17-foot tall lobster, but the measurement units were misinterpreted!
Larry has met with hard times recently, falling into disrepair, but in 2018 he was “saved” and refurbished. The restaurant is now a more casual affair, with takeaway and dine in light meals. There is also an area to taste some of the local wines from the Limestone Coast.
The Australian Farmer
The Australian Farmer is a relatively new Big Thing. It was a whopping 17 years in the making, and took two years of carving between 2007 and 2009 before it was finally completed. It can be found in Wudinna, on the main Eyre Highway between Adelaide and Perth. The Farmer is an 8-metre tall granite statue, using the granite that is abundant in the local area. The front of the farmer shows a male farmer, and the back shows the woman often standing right behind him. It incorporates many rural symbols such as sheep standing and the feet of the statue and wheat sheafs.
The Big Rocking Horse
The Big Rocking Horse is a favourite amongst children. I remember staring out the car window as we were driving past and always wanting to stop and take a look. Located at Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills, it was built in 1981 and stands at 18 metres tall. It was built by the owners of a wooden toy factory to entice them to stop and take a look. Two smaller rocking horses were originally at the site, with each subsequent horse bigger than the last until this final iteration.
Over the years the Big Rocking Horse has changed hands and new regulations meant that for a time it was closed while it was brought in line with new safety regulations. Today, the Big Rocking Horse is still a popular road-side stop. The complex also consists of the toy factory, a cafe and a wildlife park. Visitors can once again climb up to the Big Rocking Horse’s viewing platforms to admire the views over the surrounding country side.
The Big Orange
The Big Orange is in Berri in South Australia’s Riverland. It was built in 1980 and is 15 metres tall. There are four storeys inside, with a gift shop, cafe, function room, lookout and 360 degree mural. It really was one of those places where many passing motorists – especially those with kids – would stop and take a look.
Unfortunately the Big Orange was closed to tourists in 2004. This was once perhaps the most popular of Berri attractions so it’s kind of sad now to see it closed. The current owner though is known to be keen to keep the Big Orange where it is and even open it up to visitors again in some format in the future, so it is possible that we will see it open again.
The Big Galah
The Big Galah sits proudly, half way across Australia at Kimba on the Eyre Highway. He was built in 1992 by the family who owned the gift shop and restaurant at the time. It was a true family effort, with even the kids out during the school holidays to help put him together. According to locals, at 8 metres tall, he is definitely the biggest galah in town – but only just!
Since I took this photo in 2020, the Big Galah is in the process of being given a makeover. It is set to be completed just a few weeks after the time of writing this, all ready to celebrate his 30th birthday in 2022. Some of the sneak peeks online look very interesting – in fact, I think “he” may in fact be a “she”. I look forward to seeing the unveiling soon.
The Big Winch
The Big Winch sits proudly on a hill overlooking the centre of Coober Pedy. This is actually the second iteration of the winch. The first was built in the 1970s, but it was destroyed in 1986 by a cyclone that came through the town. The original winch handle can still be seen sitting in front of the new version of the Big Winch.
Right along side the winch is a lookout of the town, with a cafe & bar and gift shop there too. The view faces west, and this would be a stunning spot to enjoy a drink and watch the sunset. The complex also offers a new 360 cinematic experience showing off the outback.
The Big Cockroach
Located on the side of the main highway heading north from Adelaide near the town of Dublin, the Big Cockroach is just one of a series of sculptures crated by a local landowner as protest symbols in the 1990s. He’s about 4 metres long – imagine finding a cockroach that size in your house! Some of the other sculptures include a rat, a UFO, Ned Kelly and a blowfly!
Like many of South Australia’s Big Things, the cockroach has not existed without a little drama. In 2013 the land he was sitting on was sold, and he was sent off to a scrap yard. A local personality bought him for “two slabs of beer” and restored him. He lived in Rundle Mall for a short time before an agreement was made and he was put back in his rightful spot.
The Big Bee
There isn’t a whole lot of information to be found about the Big Bee. He sits outside of Island Beehive in Kingscote on Kangaroo Island. Bees are particularly important in this part of South Australia, as these are the only pure Ligurian bees to be found anywhere in the world. The Big Bee is waiting to welcome visitors to the gift shop and factory. Pick up some of the great local honey products (and lots of other things too) or take a tour of the factory to see how it’s all made while you are here.
Map the Miner
Map the Miner is located in the town of Kapunda, right on the edge of the Barossa Valley. He commemorates the many miners from Cornwall in England who flocked to the town when Copper was discovered. Map is 7 metres tall and was built in 1986, and he greets visitors as they come into town on the road from Adelaide.
Like all the best Big Things, Map too has a chequered past. In 2006 a local teenager used ethanol to create a “ring of fire” around Map, thinking it would make an awesome photograph. It quite possibly did, but it also caused Map to have significant damage such that he had to be demolished. He was rebuilt again in 2007.
The Big Pigeon
This is the latest addition to the list. This giant pigeon made his home right in the middle of Rundle Mall in November 2020. The 2m tall stainless steel sculpture has definitely been a talking point since. The pigeon is a public art piece meant to commemorate all those birds we see around us every day, even in the centre of the city. He was almost immediately used as a skateboard ramp (which has been stopped with the strategic placement of a tree), and is now rivalling the Pigs and the Malls Balls as the favourite selfie spot for visitors.
The Big Windmill
I don’t know if I would actually put this on a list of Big Things, but it seems to be on the official lists, so here it is. Yes, this is a Big Windmill, but this was an actual sized windmill that was used to pump water. So yes, while it is big, it’s just the biggest of its kind, not a bigger version made as a roadside attraction.
The Big Windmill, or The Comet affectionate called “Bruce”, is 10 metres across, and it feels much bigger when you are standing under it looking up. Only 15 of them were ever made, and this one was salvaged from a station near Glendambo in the north of the state before being restored and added to the collection of the Windmill Museum in Penong, west of Ceduna on the main highway to Western Australia. If you are going through town, make sure you pull in to take a look.
The Big Hills Hoist
The Hills Hoist rotary clothesline is a South Australian icon. The first Hills Hoists began appearing in backyards in 1945 and many generations have grown up swinging on the clothesline for fun with friends, and later, using it during “goon of fortune”
Today a huge version of the Hills Hoist can be found just inside the fence of the Orrcon Steel premises in Lonsdale. While I know the Hills Hoists were originally invented in the southern suburbs of Adelaide, I have not been able to find out exactly why this one is built where it is. There is no sign or fanfare, in fact it looks a little unkempt. If you know the story, comment below – I’d love to hear it!
The Big Olive
While this is called the Big Olive, it is in fact two olives, located at a manufacturing plant called The Big Olive at Tailem Bend. The big olives were used to attract visitors from the nearby highway into the shop to purchase the many products. This was the largest olive processing plant in the southern hemisphere, but it appeared to be closed during out visit. While the signs on the gates suggested it still had regular opening hours, an online search showed me a “closed” banner on their website, and a commercial real estate agent listing the land for sale, so I am assuming the business is closed for good.
That might mean these olives, which stand at 8 metres tall, could be at risk of being moved, or worse, destroyed. Get in quick to have a look before it’s (perhaps) no longer possible.
The Big Cherries
The Big Cherries are located at the gates of Fleurieu Cherries at Pages Flat, sitting on an old, flat wagon. Each of the cherries is about 1.5m across, so they are hard to miss.
This is another of the Big Things that there really isn’t much information about. Clearly they are at the gates to attract attention and draw people into the cherry farm gate, particularly during summer when they offer the opportunity to pick your own cherries.
More South Australian Big Things
There are quite a lot of Big Things I’m yet to get to. These are the ones still on my list. Hopefully I can get to them soon and move them to the section above.
- The Big Pelican, Loxton
- The Big Pelican, Meningie (yes, another one)
- The Big Kangaroo, Rooey II, Border Village
- The Big Ant, Poochera
- The Big Oyster, Ceduna
- The Big Dice, Barrier Highway
- The Big Wombat, Bookabie
- The Big Hat, Craddock
- The Big Ram, Karoonda
- The Big Yabby, Clayton
South Australia Big Things Map
Here is where you can find all the Big Things in South Australia. Most pins are exactly where the Big Thing is found, but in a couple of cases the pin is just in the town. Zoom in or click through to the full map for more detail.
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Josie Kelsh is South Australian, born and bred. She has lived in the state for almost her whole life, just one short stint away as a teenager with her family. Travelling all over the world has shown her exactly how amazing South Australia is to live and travel in and she uses her passion to show it to you the way a local sees it.