Claiming to be the first and most famous of Australia’s “Big Things” (although it was actually pipped by the Big Scotsman in Adelaide) the Big Banana was commissioned by John Landi to attract people to his roadside banana stall at Coffs Harbour, NSW. Over the years, the attraction has had mixed fortunes, but is now the centrepiece of an amusement park.
The Big Banana itself is made out of concrete. It was designed by engineer Alan Chapman and built by Alan Harvey, opening on 22 December 1964. There have been a number of changes of ownership over the years and the attraction has continued to expand, now boasting Australia’s first 3 storey high inflatable water slide (claimed to be the biggest in the world), a Laser Tag Arena, Ice Skating Rink, Toboggan Ride, “The World of Bananas” multimedia theatre experience, plantation and packing shed tour, cafe and souvenir shop.
The banana industry, however, is in decline around Coffs Harbour as the climatic conditions make it difficult to compete with the Queensland growers. Many growers are replacing their banana plantations with blueberries.
The Big Banana was one of five big things celebrated in a series of postage stamps issued by Australia post in 2007. The others were the Golden Guitar at Tamworth, the Big Lobster at Kingston in South Australia, the Big Merino at Goulburn and the Big Pineapple at Nambour in Queensland.
Other food-related big things in Australia include the Big Prawn (Ballina), the Big Apple (Stanthorpe), the Big Mandarin (Munduberra), the Big Oyster (Taree) and the incredibly attractive Big Potato at Robertson NSW (affectionately referred to by locals as the Big Turd).
In early 2020, the Big Banana was the site of a publicity stunt by Allen’s Sweets to launch their new mini chocolate banana lollies. Police rushed to the scene as locals reported attempted vandalism, but found an apron-clad man pouring chocolate syrup over the landmark.