AUSTRALIA is a big country. We like to think big. In fact, it’s estimated there are more than 150 “big’’ attractions in this great nation of ours. So if you’ve ever dreamed of making it big in Australia, this is the first of a three-part series where I take a closer look at … well … the big picture.
Coff’s Harbour in NSW is a prime destination for those on the lookout for big stuff. Pick up a DriveNow hire car or camper from Sydney and take a spin for a leisurely and scenic six-and-a-half hour drive. Or, if you have time up your sleeve, take a couple of days to enjoy some hiking in the rainforests of Bouddi National Park, the wineries of the Hunter Valley or the beaches and history of Port Stephens.
Get a taste for bigger things to come at the Big Bunch of Bananas. They sit atop a fruit and vegie stand not far from the entrance to Coff’s. Again, if you have time, take advantage of the magnificent beaches such as Gallows, Park Beach, Diggers, Sapphire, Emerald and Sawtell. Whale watching and professional fishing charters are also popular activities. Coff’s Harbour has heaps of accommodation, holiday parks and restaurants so it’s not hard to find a base from which to set up camp and launch your journey.
Perhaps the perfect place to start thinking big would be The Big Windmill Motor Lodge on the Pacific Highway. Located in a bushland setting, the three-and-a-half star accommodation offers great dining and a 15-metre swimming pool and heated spa. The most important port of call in a Big Things tour of NSW should be the Big Banana, one of the oldest and best known “big’’ attractions in Australia. Built in 1964, the walk-through construction on The Pacific Highway offers a skywalk through the banana plantation where you can see great views over the Coffs Harbour City Centre, the hinterland and the Pacific coastline from Smokey Cape to the Solitary Island’s Marine Park. Between July and October you might even spot some whales. There is also an education centre, restaurant and souvenir shops. And quite unexpectedly, the attraction also has a toboggan ride, ice-skating and huge three-wheeler motorbikes.
Next stop, the Giant Koalas. Nowhere near as almighty as the The Big Koala in Victoria, but a large and life-like spectacle all the same. Visit Coffs Harbour Zoo, 10 minutes drive north of the city and feel free to hand-feed kangaroos and waterbirds, see a koala presentation, visit the animal nursery and walk through a rainforest aviary.
Still looking for the next big thing? Drive about three hours north to Byron Bay and find the Big Avocado at Duranbah’s Tropical Fruit World. Take a tour of the avocado orchards and then dare to be different by sampling an avocado ice-cream or avocado milkshake. On the way back to Sydney, take a detour and call in at Tamworth, Australia’s Country Music Capital and home to The Big Golden Guitar. Erected in 1987, the guitar stands 12 metres high and is based on the famous Golden Guitar trophies for the Golden Guitar Awards.
Then, you can scoot across to the coast again and feast your eyes on the Big Oyster in Taree. While the oyster appears to have teeth, these days the construction has nothing much to smile about as it sits on top of a car dealership – still impressive, but a little worse for wear. For those who prefer a drive south of Sydney, The big Merino in Goulburn stands as a proud testament to the huge local wool-growing industry. It stands 15m high and 21m long.
Other big attractions in NSW include: The Big Axe, Kew; The Big Bottle, Mangrove Mountain; The Big Cherries, Young, The Big Chook, Moonbi; The Big Fruitbowl, Bilpin; The Big Winecask, Buronga; The Big Gold Panner, Bathurst; The Big Trout, Adaminaby; and The Big Potato, Robertson.