Iconic Tourist Attractions of Western Australia
The Big Things of Australia are loosely connected by one thing – they're all big! There are roughly over 150 large structures or sculptures across the continent. The Big Scotsman in Medindie, Adelaide, has been touted as being the first, built in 1963.
Most have been erected or constructed as tourist attractions. They make great backdrops for group photographs and many are sufficient reason in themselves for a trip to see them. Some are considered works of folk art and over the years more and more are being heritage-listed.
Western Australia has a series of 'big things'. One which is unfortunately no longer available for public viewing but which attracted great attention over the years was the Bert Bolle Barometer which once stood in the Barometer Tower in the Denmark Visitor Centre.
The barometer was recognised by the International Guinness Book of Records as the largest barometer in the world. It was a working water barometer built in the Netherlands by Bert Bolle. When erected, it stood over 12.5 metres tall.
At the Old Kent River winery, midway between Denmark and Walpole on the South Coast Highway sits the Big Marron. These freshwater crayfish are regarded as a delicacy and they are now farmed commercially at a number of places in the south-west. The winery also incorporates the Slow Food Café where the main course is either lamb or – did you guess? – marron.
In Donnybrook, roughly 210 km from Perth, the Apple FunPark is the largest free-entry playground in Australia. A bequest from a local resident made the construction of the fruit-themed playground possible. The Park is maintained by the local Shire and is rarely free of visitors, being a great place to celebrate family occasions or Christmas wind-ups.
Some 904 km north of Perth, Carnarvon is famous for its banana plantations. To celebrate this fact, a 10 metre high Big Banana now stands on the corner of Robinson Street and Boundary Road. The banana has a diameter of 2 metre and is made out of fibreglass with a steel-reinforced frame. Carnarvon sits at the mouth of the Gascoyne River. Scallop and prawn cultivation and salt mining are other attractions in the area.
Meckering is 133 kilometres east of Perth. Its main claim to fame is the disastrous earthquake which devastated the town in October 1968. Although not the state's largest earthquake, it was the most significant in terms of damage done and social upheaval caused. The maximum displacement was 2 metres. Many buildings toppled, rail lines buckled and great splits appeared in the ground.
There were no deaths caused by the quake but considerable damage to town buildings occurred. The original townsite was eventually abandoned and the town rebuilt 750 metres northeast of its original site. Meckering is home to The Big Camera, a building shaped like a giant 35mm camera. It is the only museum in Australia open to the public that is totally dedicated to photography.
In a park in the centre of Brunswick Junction on South West Highway stands a model of a Friesian (Holstein) cow - the Big Cow. She has been given the nickname of Daisy. Brunswick Junction is the centre of a large dairying area and the nearby Peter Creameries produces butter, cheese and other milk products from milk supplied by local dairy farmers. Daisy stands 1.5 metres high by 5 metres long and has enchanting black and white patches.
Slightly north also on South West Highway on the outskirts of Harvey stands the 'Big Orange'. Harvey is one and a half hours drive from Perth and serviced daily by the Australind train. Agriculture in the form of citrus, beef production, dairying and viticulture are all important in the region and the Alcoa bauxite mine employs many locals.
The Big Orange is 2 metres across and sits atop a 10 metre steel tower with an additional 4 metre climb to the viewing platform which has been set up inside the orange. Originally, in the mid 1980s, the Big Orange was perched on the roof of a building in a small tourist park. The park eventually closed, the Big Orange fell into disrepair and was regarded as presenting a less than positive impression to visitors. It was purchased by the Harvey Fresh company and moved before being restored to its former glory.
At Wagin in the Great Southern region stands the Big Ram. The ram is seven metres high and 15 metres long and stands in a peaceful garden setting ideal for picnics or just relaxing. Built in 1985, the imposing structure celebrates the reliance of the region on wool. Wagin is three hours from Perth and other tourist attractions include a Heritage Walk and a Social History Museum.
The Big Whale is situated at Eucla. Eucla is the easternmost point in Western Australia, only 11 kilometres west of the South Australian border. In 2006, Eucla had a population of 86. It is a significant stopping point for travellers and trucks along the Eyre Highway. It also has a large 10 metres x 3 metres whale. Eucla is the only Western Australian location on the Eyre Highway with a direct view of the Great Australian Bight. Whale-watching is a popular pastime for many tourists during the migratory season of the great mammals.
Inland at Norseman, a group of Big Camels made of corrugated iron stand in a park in the town centre. Norseman is about 190 km south of Kalgoorlie, 191 km west of Balladonia and 204 km north of Esperance. There are no other towns of any consequence that are closer so Norseman is one isolated little town. Its major industry has been gold-mining.
Surprisingly life-like, the camels commemorate the large part played by camels in developing this inhospitable region of the state. Around the turn of the century camel teams were a common sight. Camels were essential in the arid areas, travelling between 20 and 25 miles a day with large bull camels expected to carry a load of up to 600kg.
They played a major part in the lives of miners as well as transporting household goods, mining equipment and wool. The wide streets of these goldfield towns are a direct result of allowing sufficient room for camel trains to turn. Camels were also vital in the installation and maintenance of the East-West telegraph line.
Port Hedland is 1636 km north of Perth. Ten kilometres inland is the light industrial suburb of Wedgefield. At the entrance to the area is the Big Wheelbarrow. Constructed by volunteers, the wheelbarrow pays tribute to the early miners and explorers who put up with heat, dust and deprivation while divesting the earth of its treasures.
Wyndham is roughly 4184 km north east of Perth and 927 km west of Darwin. In Wyndham the Big Crocodile sits at the entrance to Wyndham Three Mile. Built in 1987, this 18 metre x 3 metre sculpture was designed and built by sculptor Andrew Hickson and students from Halls Creek TAFE (College of Technical and Further Education). It consists of 5.5km of steel rod, 10 rolls of bird mesh and 6 cubic metres of concrete. The crocodile was designed from a photograph. 2,400 computer-generated mathematical coordinates were then plotted from the photograph to make the shape.
As time goes by, more and more 'big things' appear as towns try to attract the mighty tourist dollar. It will be interesting to see what appears next.