Australia: Miscellaneous Unusual Sights and Good Ideas

From cities to the outback...
Back to all unusual sights
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Vegemite is undoubtedly the staple food of Australia and an experience to which a foreigner is unfailingly submitted when visiting an Australian home. A dark brown spread made with a concentrate of yeast extracts...

In France such a cheese can only be labelled as "brie" if it is made in the region of Brie located south of Paris. Similarly, "camembert" is an AOC - protected designation of origin - which refers exclusively to the cheese made in a small area of Normandy around the village of that name. Not so in Australia, where feta does not have to come from Greece either. But Australia surely would not mind if the UK or Canada made and sold "Roaring Forties", borrowing the name from the famous blue cheese from Tasmania, so named in reference to the strong westerly winds that travel in these latitudes... On a different note, we were quite surprised to see oysters being sold already opened!


Advertizing gimmicks sometimes bordering on tourist traps, these "big things" certainly are effective in grabbing the attention of the traveler. In a country where distances are so great, with points of interest often far apart, anything providing an excuse for a stop is a welcome way of breaking the monotony of the road. The size of these "big crustaceans" are in synch with that of the country: the "big lobster", located in Kingston, South Australia, is about 17 meters high! The "big prawn" is stationed in Ballina, NSW and the less-renown "big crab" is posted in Cardwell, Queensland.
See also section on popular art.
As you easily guessed, this "big mango" found in Bowen or this "big banana" -- there are several of them in the country -- promote regional fruit productions. Queensland's most spectacular is Nambour's "big pineapple". 16 meters high, it opens its inside to visitors invited to climb a staircase which will walk them through an exhibit describing how this fruit is processed from planting to canning. So how many of these big structures are there around Australia anyway? Over 150!
See also section on popular art.
Where can you see this mammoth "big Bundaberg rum? In Bundaberg, QLD, where else? And how about this huge statue of James Cook? Oh but of course, in Cooktown, QLD! How about the fish? There are quite a few throughout the country, but this particular "big fish" is mounted on the roof of a fishing tackle shop in Katherine, NT. These gaudy, totally kitsch sculptures are not only considered folk art, they are also being heritage-listed, which says a lot about their popularity.
See also section on popular art.

It may be in black and white but the decor in the small town of Mooball, NSW certainly qualifies as colorful. Situated between Byron Bay and Tweed Heads, Mooball was bypassed by the Pacific Highway and as a result has lost many visitors. But if you can spare the time, prefer the Tweed Valley Way and check out the local cowhide theme: from telegraph poles to boulders, cutout tin cows and even an old Landrover series, the whole town says "moo"!
See also section on popular art.

Perth Royal Show is a yearly event organized by the Royal Agriculture Society of Western Australia since the early 1900's. It features the traditional agricultural competitions and animal displays, informational exhibits and food stalls. Besides the fairground and rides which target the young public, showbags is a newer trend which has become its focal point of interest. These bags, which are sold up to 75 dollars each, contain cheap novelty toys, candy and advertising gadgets -- magnets, stickers, keychains, etc. -- related to a particular brand name, TV show etc. There is such a vast offer that some booths have even specialized in showbags for girls only! Since at trade fairs we attended around the world samples and advertising items were always handed out for free, we were all the more astonished by the tremendous commercial success of this gimmick!
Is it because this ballground in Perth is used primarily by seniors that a funeral home had the brilliant idea of advertising its service right there? The ad being posted at a vantage point between both courts makes us suspect the funeral home could very well be a sponsor...
The mining industry is such a big contributor to the Australian economy that kids need to start training early. So why not start with a playground excavator? Wonder if the industry pays for these?

Going Outback

Here is a typically Australian item which is mounted on most 4WDs, a "roo bar", short for "kangaroo bar". "Bull bars", a larger model mainly seen on commercial vehicles, are meant to protect from encounters with larger animals -- bulls but also camels.
This device is useful for fishermen as well, saving them the trouble of having to take down their fishing poles.
Those who like to travel with their vehicles can opt for a surrounding model including a step, a useful addition when driving off-track in the bush, as it helps brush away scrubs and bushes.
It can also hold jerrycans or even a generator. This is an important piece of equipment for the Australian bush lover, which goes hand in hand with the "esky" -- or fridge -- into which are stored beer and meat, the two vital ingredients of a successful "barbie" - barbecue, of course!
Following the agreements signed by the Australian government returning lands to their Traditional Owners, signs such as these have mushroomed mostly in the central part of the country. When travelers find them on their way, they must either turn around and find an altogether different route. Or, when there is no alternative road, turn around and try to obtain a permit that would allow them to take a road running on Aboriginal freehold land. Usually, these permits are issued for a fee for the same day only and do not allow stopping for the night along the way, unless there is a camping-cum-fee facility where visitors are requested to stay.

Clothes and Dress Code

The short shorts worn by Australian football players at the stadium are a common sight in the streets as well, including policeman uniforms. For those spending a lot of time outside, a large-brimmed hat, or at least a cap, is part of the dress code. And for the great outdoors, short bush gators are a useful accessory to keep thorns and sticky grass out of their boots, which are often short riding boots. These are so popular that there is a nickname for them, "blunnies", in reference to the historical brand Blundstone, which sadly no longer manufactures in Australia.
Here, one can swim without a bathing suit, since it is "optional"! We have witnessed several times this circumlocution obviously preferred to a more direct way of indicating access to a nude beach...
By the way, you will not find Whyallah's nude beach indicated on any map in this town of South Australia. To find it, you need to obtain a mud map from the tourist bureau whose brochures spell out the following warnings:
- the track to this beach is difficult to access
- it is not sign-posted
- the track is sandy and not easily driven
- the beach has no toilet or other facilities
- there is no shade
- there are no life guards on this beach.
Who still wants to go there?

Smart Ideas

Feel like sleeping in company of "Opal" in a 60 million-year-old "bed"? Try PJ's Bed and Breakfast in White Cliffs!
Located in NSW, it is one of the most world-renowned opal mining towns, although the booming times of the early 20th century are long gone. Apart from opals, White Cliffs' other attractions are the abandoned mines converted into beautiful underground homes. A make-do response to the scarcity of building materials in its early days, this practical solution has so many advantages that the number of dugouts is still growing. Carving a room out of this self-standing sandstone is cheap and makes for dry and cool living quarters, cosily tucked away from the scorching desert heat.
Withdrawing money from a Wespac ATM machine has never been as user-friendly as when a face smiling prettilly walks you through it step by step. Who said that machines are dehumanizing??
What a truly clever idea to use these mylar bags to mark road construction sites! Equipped with a reflector, they are easy to spot at night and cause less damage than cones would in case of a vehicle collision. They are strong, cheap to make and to transport, since they can be brought in empty and filled with whatever is available on site.

This umbrella-wrapping machine will enclose your sopping wet accessory in a plastic waterproof sleeve within seconds. Wow, no more dirty floors, at least not due to dripping "brollies", how elegant is that? Well, the other main purpose of this device is actually to reduce the risk of accidents due to slippery surfaces. It makes sense.