It’s no secret that Australia loves its “Big Things”. They are all over the place, sticking up into the landscape and demanding a selfie or wild 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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TL;DR? Here's the outline
- History of South Australia’s Big Things
- Big Things in South Australia I’ve Seen
- The Big Scotsman
- The Big Lobster
- The Australian Farmer
- The Big Rocking Horse
- The Big Orange
- The Big Galah
- The Big Winch
- The Big Cockroach
- The Big Bee
- Map the Miner
- The Big Pigeon
- The Big Windmill
- The Big Hills Hoist
- The Big Olive
- The Big Cherries
- The Big Pelican
- The Big Ant
- The Big Oyster
- The Big Wombat
- The Big Kangaroo
- More South Australian Big Things
- 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 claim to be the initiator of the Big Thing movement, as the very first one was built here. Some Big Things are just that, others are a little more controversial. Is a large statue a “Big Thing”? It’s hard to say.
There’s no official list, but by most estimates, 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 that 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.
Recently 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 in Kingston in the state’s Southeast, an area well known for its 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, just like she often is in the farming community.
It incorporates many rural symbols such as sheep standing and the feet of the statue and wheat sheaves.
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 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 roadside stop. The complex also consists of a 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 countryside.
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 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 we may see it open again.
The Big Galah
The Big Galah sits proudly, halfway 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 helping out during the school holidays to put him together. According to locals, at 8 metres tall, he is the biggest galah in town – but only just!
In September 2021 the Big Galah got a make-over, and I discovered that “he” is a “she”.
The nameless galah (can you believe she doesn’t have a name? Normally we name everything!) is now covered in 32 different shades of pink and grey, making her stand out from the flock.
The Big Winch
The Big Winch sits proudly on a hill overlooking the centre of Coober Pedy. The current structure is 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 alongside 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 created 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.
May 2023 – the Big Cockroach, along with his mates, have been removed. They are going to be restored and placed somewhere new where locals and visitors can enjoy them. I will update you once I know where they are now located.
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, 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 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.
After he landed in his permanent home, 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 put this on a list of Big Things, but it seems to be on all the lists I have checked, so here it is. Yes, this is a Big Windmill, but this was an actual-sized windmill that was used to pump water.
So while it is big, it’s just the biggest of its kind, not a bigger version made to serve as a roadside attraction.
The Big Windmill, or The Comet affectionately 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 located where it is.
There is no sign or fanfare, in fact, it looks a little unkempt. If you know the story, let me know – I’d love to hear it!
The Big Olive
While this is called the Big Olive, it is 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 to 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 our 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 Big Thing that there isn’t much information about. 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.
The Big Pelican
This big pelican lives in Loxton, not too far from the banks of the Murray River. He was originally built in 1979 for a float in the Loxton Mardi Gras.
He appeared again the next year, but just days later some local pranksters decided to float him down the Murray on some car tubes, damaging his paper mache construction.
Once he was fixed up a few years later, he travelled all over the state, even appearing in events in Adelaide. Eventually, in 1998, he was given his permanent home not too far from the Loxton Riverfront Holiday Park.
While you are in the area, also take a look at the Tree of Knowledge, which shows the flood levels over the last century or so. I’m glad I didn’t live in this area in 1956!
The Big Ant
As you cross the Eyre Peninsula, turn off into the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Poochera at take a look at the Big Ant.
While he used to be located on the highway at the roadhouse, he can now be easily found at a little park in town. I am not a fan of ants, and this one is like something out of a nightmare, but thank goodness he doesn’t move an awful lot.
This ant is Nothimyrmercia Marcrops, or the Dinosaur Ant, which was first discovered here near Poochera in 1977. It’s the ant that is the closest to what the very first ants would have been like, around 100 million years ago.
These guys are nocturnal, mostly only leaving their nests at night, and they are not aggressive, which is lucky, because their sting can be quite painful to humans.
The Big Oyster
The Big Oyster can be found on the outskirts of Ceduna as you are going towards Western Australia.
It was originally built as part of a float used during Oysterfest celebrations (usually the first weekend in October each year) but it was retired in 1994 and now proudly welcomes visitors to the town right need the visitor information board.
The Big Oyster is a tribute to Ceduna’s claim to be the Oyster Capital of Australia.
I might be a little biased (I was born in Ceduna) but I think the local Smoky Bay oysters are the best in the world. Make sure if you are in Ceduna you drive just up the road to have a taste.
The Big Wombat
The Big Wombat can be found at the Scotdesco Community, near Bookabie on South Australia’s far west coast.
It’s a little out of the way, but it’s easy to drive in and have a look if you are making your way across the Nullarbor to Western Australia or just as far as Head of the Bight.
The Big Wardu (Wardu is the Wirangu word for Wombat) was built by Robert Larking and completed in 2013.
It’s no surprise to find it is located in country filled with wombats, and the local people love to share about the area from an indigenous point of view.
If you call in and take a look, you may also like to browse the art gallery where you may find local artists hard at work. There is often food and drinks available and accommodation here too.
The Big Kangaroo
If you keep heading west, just metres inside the South Australia/Western Australia border you can’t help but notice Rooey II, standing tall with his jar of Vegemite in hand.
Since we’re well and truly in the outback here, there is always a good story behind things, and Rooey II is no different.
In 1987, when America’s Cup was being held in Perth, the owners of the Border Village Roadhouse decided they needed something to entice all the passing traffic to stop.
At first, they wanted to acquire Matilda, the boxing kangaroo mascot from the Commonwealth Games. She was unavailable, so they instead built their own.
Designed by “Saltbush” Bill Metherel, Rooey II got his name in a competition that attracted entries from near and far.
Rooey was the favourite name, but since it was also the nickname of one of the owners of the Roadhouse, he became Rooey II.
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 Dice, Barrier Highway
- 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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