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Roadside Australia - Part II

By Julie Wiskirchen

Day 3 - Coffs Harbour to Ballina

Since it was Easter, I kicked off the day with Mass. Then I continued north up the Pacific Highway to a fishing town called Ballina. Visitors to Ballina are welcomed by the Big Prawn who casts his beady gaze on passing traffic. Inside the Big Prawn complex, I sampled some fish n' chips and bought Big Prawn junk. I continued north to Byron Bay, a hippie and surfer mecca. I got stuck in a lot of traffic near Byron, due to the East Coast Blues and Roots Festival that happens there every Easter weekend. If I'd been there 2 days earlier, I could have seen ZZ Top sing "Slip inside my Sleeping Bag." Sunday was reggae day and I passed on it.

It was a drizzly day so I couldn't enjoy the beaches of Byron as I'd hoped. I did visit the lighthouse and walked out to the easternmost point of mainland Australia. And I browsed through the many interesting shops. If the traffic hadn't slowed me down, I would have ventured further north another 30km to Tropical Fruit World, formerly known as Avocadoland and home to the Big Avocado. Oh well...another time. I went back to Ballina and spent the night at the Ballina Fun N' Sun motel.

Day 4 - Ballina to Tamworth

I veered from the coast and headed west into the hinterland. I'd return to Sydney along a different route and tour the New England region. I took a winding road through the hills. I have to say it freaked me out a bit to see fall colors on the trees in April. I stopped off at Bald Rock National Park to check out a more natural Big Thing. Bald Rock is the largest granite monolith in Australia. The steep ascent just about kicked my ass but the view from the top was breathtaking. I then picked up the New England Highway in Tenterfield, where I searched in vain for the Big Orange. Perhaps it's been removed, as the web guide to Australia's Big Things mentioned that it had fallen on hard times. I drove south to Tamworth, where I stopped for the night at the Tamworth Motor Inn.

Day 5- Tamworth to Sydney

Tamworth is Australia's country music capital, a mini-Nashville sans Neon and Twitty City. Country music is the biggest selling genre in Australia and every year Tamworth hosts a huge country music festival in January. The town's landmark is the 12-meter tall Golden Guitar, a replica of Australia's country music award, which stands in front of the Gallery of Stars wax museum. Tamworth took the Big Guitar theme and ran with it. The visitor's center is shaped like a guitar (although it takes a postcard with an aerial view of it to really see it) and the Alandale Flag Inn features a guitar-shaped swimming pool adorned with the Australian flag on its bottom.





I visited the Hands of Fame display where the country stars such as Slim Dusty and Tex Morton have left their handprints in cement. I hadn't heard of any of these stars, so I proceeded to the Gallery of Stars wax museum to learn more about them.

Jimmy Little is the Australian equivalent of Charley Pride-a black country singer. I actually saw Jimmy sing at a free concert in Sydney and he has a really nice, smooth voice. He reminded me a bit of Tom Jones at the time because he was middle-aged and plugging a new album which featured hip cover songs including The Church's "Under the Milky Way." I didn't realize he was mostly known for country music.

I forget the name of this yokel on the left but I'm sure he would have been a regular on Hee Haw if he'd been American.

After an entertaining half-day in Tamworth, I hightailed it back to Sydney. As I drifted off to sleep that night, visions of Big Things danced in my head.

Click here for page 1 with the Big Banana, Big Bull, and more

Guide to Australia's Big Things

Roadside America - for American Big Things

Did we miss any Australian Big Things? Let us know.


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