Australia’s Quirkiest Landmarks

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When I was a full-time traveller in this glorious land one thing I loved the most (aside from the wildlife, the scenery and pretty much absolutely everything) was there was always a surprise around every corner. You would be unassumingly driving down a random road and suddenly come across a giant poo in Kiama, or a roundabout occupied with several thousand gnomes at Wellingtons Mill.

I like to think these unadvertised attractions are a reflection of the true nature of Australians and what makes them great. Like the Big Poo and Gnomesville, Australians are a friendly bunch that don’t take themselves too seriously and love a good laugh.

I have put together a list of my top five favourite quirky attractions I came across while travelling around Australia, so you can keep an eye out on your roady’s:

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1: Esperance Stonehenge

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Esperance is well known for its beauty. Crystal clear turquoise water, pure white sand and cute friendly Kangaroos hopping along the beach. But a lesser known feature of this unique locale is the full-size replica of Stonehenge (the English one) built behind the family home of Kim and Jillian Beale. Esperance’s Stonehenge is even lined up correctly to catch the light on summer and winter solstice and send it between the stones, just like the real one.

The Stonehenge replica - constructed out of 137 massive pieces of Esperance pink granite - was not originally intended for the paddock of two cattle farmers. It was created for a millionaire in Margaret River, but when financial difficulties struck the local quarry began looking for another buyer, the Beale’s decided this was an opportunity to invest in local tourism and it has been open to the public ever since.

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Esperance Stonehenge

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2: Aliens of Wycliffe Well

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If you are heading towards Alice Springs from Darwin way, just south of the Devils Marble’s you will stumble across the self-proclaimed UFO capital of Australia. Wycliffe Well is not so much a town as it is a petrol station and one hell of a quirky holiday park. Sites are just $50 a night, which is a bargain for such an out of this world attraction. According to the brochure, "UFO sightings are so common, that if you stayed up all night looking, you would be considered unlucky not to see anything, rather than lucky to see something." If you take a look at the camp’s guest book you will see that this claim could indeed be true!

If you’re just stopping off to fill your car, there’s still tonnes to be seen in the broad daylight. Little green men greet you from the UFO landing pad where a replica spaceship guards the entrance to the Alien-museum-slash-gift-shop-slash-camp-office. The office’s exterior walls are decorated with murals telling tales of land-cruiser’s abducted on lonely midnight roads, and inside there is a wealth of Alien information and memorabilia to absorb.

One thing’s for sure, whether you are a believer or not, this is one colourful stop on an otherwise long and dusty journey.

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wycliffe well

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3: Arno’s Wall, Winton

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There’s a tonne of quirky stuff to experience in Winton, especially if you love dinosaurs. There’s the Age of Dinosaurs open air museum and the worlds only dinosaur stampede, where at least 150 two legged dinosaurs left their footprints in a shelf of rock ninety-five million years ago. Winton is also home to the Guinness Book of Records authenticated world largest deckchair. If that’s not enough there’s also a fence that you can play like an instrument, which has even featured in Gotye’s 2010 song ‘Eyes Wide Open’.

However, by far the quirkiest thing to grace the small town of Winton is Arno’s Wall. The great wall of Arno as it’s affectionately known is about two meters high and at least seventy meters long. Every part of the Wall has a story, and if you are lucky, you may run into one of the locals happy to share them.

This wonder of modern design was built by German immigrant and Opal miner Arno Grotjahn and is a fascinating insight into a clearly eccentric and colourful life. The wall took over 30 years to build and contain almost every household item you could imagine, from lawnmowers and motorbikes to ovens, dolls, even the kitchen sink! The list of items stuck in the wall could me a mile long. When asked why he built the wall Arno replied, "There's everything in there - life, death, the start of the world, the end of the world - the way I see it.”

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Arno's Wall

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4: Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest, Coober Pedy

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Coober Pedy is quirky enough for a visit all on its own. The South Australian Opal Mining town is famous for its 1700 or so residents living underground in dug out abodes. You can even stay in an underground hotel or attend an underground church. Theres also a few random props lying around the place from all the movies that have been shot thee over the years, including a full size abandoned space ship from the movie 'Pitch Black'.

However, the most interesting dugout of them all belongs to a man that was a legend in these parts. Crocodile Harry was a Latvian baron, who after fighting for Germany in WW11 decided to immigrate to Australia, where he hunted croc’s until finally settling in Coober Pedy in 1975. As the legend goes, in 1977 survived the remote Northern Territory bush with almost no supplies for 56 days, which was apparently the inspiration for the famous character Crocodile Dundee.

With a very Australian honesty box style entry fee, you can see the home of a legend, and what a home it is. Eccentric doesn’t even begin to describe Harry’s humble abode. Every square inch of Harry’s dugout paints a picture of a life lived in full colour, full of tall tales and, as it seems, the life of a dashing lady’s man.

Harry’s home is somewhat of a shrine to all the women he has bedded over the years, now hanging as trophies on the walls of the dugout. Sculptures, paintings, even the underwear of his exploits adorn every surface. It could possibly be that Harry was more of a legend with the ladies in his own mind if local stories are true but one thing’s for sure this unusual underground shrine shouldn’t be missed if you are passing by Coober Pedy.

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 crocodile harrys underground nest

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5: The Big Bench

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I did have to include something ‘big’ in this list, didn’t I? Well I have seen the big pineapple, prawn and banana but the thing I loved the most was Broken Hill’s ‘Big Bench’. Why? Because it’s a big thing that’s also practical. You can sit on it and enjoy the view just like a normal bench, except bigger. It also makes anyone who sits on it look adorably small, so it’s great for photos.

Broken Hill, or 'The Silver City' as it is sometimes called, is a city forged out of a hill that was almost pure silver, lead and zinc. It is a mining town on the edge of the desert at the central-western edge of New South Wales which is worth visiting because both the city and the surrounding area have so many attractions that it would be easy to spend a week exploring the area and not exhaust the unique mixture of ancient Aboriginal culture, vast desert vistas, famous movie locations, mining experiences, contemporary art galleries and desert sculpture.

The Big Bench was built in September 2002 as part of the Landscapes and Backgrounds exhibition. Two and a half times regular bench scale, the Big Bench was constructed on top of the Line of Lode, a high hill of mineral deposits that runs right down the centre of Broken Hill.

What else can I say? It’s a Big Bench, it has a nice view, you can even see the Pinnacles in the distance. If you ever find yourself in Broken Hill go and have yourself a sit down, a cuppa and enjoy!

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 big bench broken hill

 

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