The Big Banana

On the last day of our holiday and before we spent the evening at the Indian Restaurant, we drove to the Big Banana.  The reason we went on the last day is because Carl had been hoping that by some rare, very rare miracle, Alfie would forget we’d promised to take him.

But when Carl returned from his morning swim, Alfie saw him come through the door and said, ‘Yeah, now we can go to the Big Banana’.  And Carl’s shoulders rounded because the sun was shining, it was a perfect beach day but instead, we were heading off to one of those hideous places that kids love and parents loathe.

And there it is!

And there it is!

The Big Banana has been a Coffs Harbour icon for over 40 years.  Opening in a banana plantation in 1964, owner John Landy wanted something big to attract passing traffic to his roadside banana stall.  When completed, it was the biggest banana in the world.  It quickly became a tourist attraction offering more than just roadside bananas; there were tours through the banana plantation, train rides, a restaurant, kiosk and souvenirs.  It was sold and re-sold and sold again with each new owner upping the commercialism and lessening the emphasis on bananas.  Today it offers a theatre experience, an ice-skating rink, toboggan rides and a water park.

The grand entrance

The grand entrance

‘Oh come on, Carl’, I said to him as he sat slumped on the bed, ‘We didn’t take him to the Easter Show so we promised we’d take him to the Big Banana.  We’ll just go for a couple of hours’.  So off we went and it was only a 10-minute drive north of where we were staying in Sawtell.  The first thing we did was walk through the Big Banana.  This is not a momentous occasion; you just walk like you normally would except you’re walking through a big banana.  Once on the other side, Carl asked, ‘Can we go now?’

Ahhh, but no!  We hadn’t had a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and covered in crushed peanuts.  So just so we could say we had the full experience we went to the cafeteria that is as underwhelming as walking through the big banana and had frozen bananas and banana splits.

‘Can we go now?’ asked Carl.

The lookout and lots of weeds where the banana plantation used to be

The lookout and lots of weeds where the banana plantation used to be

‘Not yet’, I said because we hadn’t walked up to the look-out.  The view was spectacular (if you didn’t depress yourself by looking at the beach and wishing you were there), but looking around the Big Banana was certainly depressing because I could see the old train tracks where the trains used to run when I was a teenager and it was always such a highlight of the Big Banana experience.  Today the trains have been removed to the scrapyard, the tracks are overgrown with weeds, the train station is fenced off, the external walls of the restaurant are covered in graffiti and even the banana plantation seems to be in a state of neglect.

Water Park in the foreground, toboggan ride weaving down the hill

Water Park in the foreground, toboggan ride weaving down the hill

After our visit to the look-out we bought tickets for Alfie to have two toboggan rides and an hour and a half in the water park for $18.00.  I should explain that as the mid-north coast never sees snow, the toboggan ride is in a metal half-pipe and winds for 800mtrs down a hill with no snow in sight.  I went on it a few times and it was actually a lot of fun.

The end of the toboggan ride

The end of the toboggan ride

Then we went to the water park and this was completely lame.  Alfie could have been in there for an hour and a half but within 20 minutes he was bored, cold and eager to go.  The water park is just a handful of blow-up slides and structures covered in water.

Hurtling down the slide

Hurtling down the slide

Once dressed, Carl thought we could go but no, we hadn’t been to the souvenir shop where everything junky and tacky is available for a rip-off price.  So Alfie stocked up on a whole bunch of stuff he’d lose interest in within about three-minutes and then we could leave.

The water park

The water park

Carl said it was the worst day of the holiday and he hoped to never have to go back there ever again.  But, maybe we will.  Because the Big Banana is about to have injected into it, around $200 million.  The new Big Banana will have a hotel and conference centre, a proper water park, new restaurants, shops and cafes.

Why not go down frontwards

Why not go down frontwards

It might just be worth a look.

 

A little slide

A little slide

The Big Banana – 351 Pacific Highway, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450

Comments

  1. That is so sad that they didn’t maintain it the way it was originally, it would have been a true iconic tourist destination. Hopefully they return it to some of it’s old glory :)

  2. It IS sad when poor Alfie’s high expectations of fun in the Big Banana ended up in that lame outing. Perhaps the future Big Banana will be ‘bigger and better’ and you’ll get to experience it one day … if Alfie isn’t too grown up by then to want to come.

  3. Hmmm interesting. I’ve driven past it several times but don’t think I’ve ever been there. Perhaps as a very little tot. The new development will hopefully bring some quality to the experience. Those water slides actually look like fun but I completely get Carl’s attitude…..I would be exactly like him and hope to bipass it..
    Carolyn

  4. Carl sounds like my husband when Laith wants to do something we don’t! But you went and Alfie’s wish was fulfilled. I’m sure he himself won’t want to come back…not until it’s been redone anyway! Looks like you all had a good trip.

    Nazneen

  5. Did you know that my brother in law Manu used to be the train driver at the Big Banana? He was very popular with the young female tourists apparently! :D

  6. I’m sad to think that there are no banana plantations any more…my few ‘big’ experiences were in Queensland where we visited a ginger factory (maybe that wasn’t a ‘big’ location actually) and a macadamia one. The tours through the growing products were a highlight, even as a child – although I liked the tacky side too!

  7. ive only been there when i was very little, sad to see that it hasnt been well maintained!

  8. Well the infusion of cash should help but a conference center? Not sure how professional that would look! Ha!

  9. Isn’t it funny the things we do for our kids:) They always see things a bit grander than we do.

  10. Just the idea of a big banana as a tourist attraction is so weird…and kind of funny! It’s sad that it was such a letdown because it really does have potential!

  11. What we won’t do sometimes for our kids…

  12. What a shame to have to spend the day there particularly when the weather looked so wonderful. At least you gave Alfie and lovely memory.
    We’ve got our fare share of tacky tourist traps but on our way to our cottage we have The Big Apple, the world’s largest apple, with a lookout, but we’ve never done that. They do actually have pretty good apple pie, but we don’t stop often to pick up pie. They also have wild bunnies all around the property who are adorable and just brave enough to sometimes come up to you if you’re friendly and quiet (doesn’t happen too often if you have kids around).

  13. I am sure Alfie wasn’t half as disappointed as his Dad. But I can imagine…nothing worse than a wasted day in a holiday. The slides look cute though.

  14. It is always so sad to see places go down hill like that. The place looks like it has a lot of potential, maybe the new owners will turn things around

  15. Yup, you know you’ll have to check out the new and improved Big Banana! I’m sure Alfie can’t wait. ;-) Funny post – thanks.

  16. Now then, that water park doesn’t look too bad. Mind you, I am viewing from Bonnie Scotland. I went to the Big Banana in 1987 and loved it, it was the first Big Thing I’d been too and I was delighted at the schlock factor, and bought loads of things in the gift shop. MUST return!!

  17. We went when I was young and it was fun back then, but it certainly hasn’t aged as gracefully as me! Hopefully the new cash injections will boost it as much as botox and give it a few more good years yet :)

  18. Oh Charlie I’m laughing out loud. I can just picture the scene with Carl! How sad that they’ve let it all die down so much. It would have been great when it was about the bananas. It’s sad that everything gets so commercialised.

  19. Oh, gosh, the things we do for our kids! At least the view was fantastic! I still have bins of those nasty, cheap souvenirs in my basement….they desperately need to be purged :/

    PS…thanks for your kind words of sympathy.

  20. Aaaah! So many memories of tobogganing at Thredbo during out New Year’s family holidays! Thanks Charlie :)

  21. I’ve heard about the Big Banana but I’ve never been there. Similar story to the Big Pineapple up here. It was sold to new owners and the train is back, the petting zoo is back, the pineapple has been refurbished and they have a wonderful farmer’s market every Saturday. I haven’t been on the train (yet) I’ll keep you posted. So far I’ve been to the market. :)

  22. OMG [sorry!]: since I oft travelled up and down the Pacific Highway for some 13 years, looking to the ‘other side’ and cringing, even then, was part of the ‘trip experience’!! Sorry, Lorraine, no insult whatsoever meant to Manu :) ! But talk about vulgar and tacky and ugly! You do have a very patient husband :D !

  23. What a hilarious day. The banana splits sound delicious and the slides look like heaps of fun!

  24. Hopefully, the new owners will turn things around

  25. I think the best part for me would have been the frozen banana! I’m sure Alfie enjoyed himself immensely, and most adults really do not enjoy this kind of place. What good parents (please pass kudos on to Carl) for rounding out your lovely vacation time with a day set aside to fulfill a promise to Alfie. That part you’ll never revet! :-)

  26. Maybe we can open up a branch of the Big Banana in the States? :)

  27. When I have a child I’ll go to all this strange places :) Big bannana sounds like fun!

  28. Always love those toboggan rides. btw…if it’s supposed to be a whole bunch of fun, shouldn’t it be called the big bananas? ;-)

  29. I feel the train should have been kept, a pity that the owners didn’t care. I don’t know what carl has, at least you guys got these kind of fun parks, we don’t even have those in goa! (show him what I wrote! =P)

  30. $200 Million is nothing to sneeze at, maybe they’ll bring it back to resemble something of what it used to be back in the day? It’s a pity they don’t use the train anymore! I don’t understand why they would not take care of the banana trees…it would behoove them to take care of them…anywhoo, you’ll have to go back sometime and check it out after they revamp it. :) xo

  31. Charlie, I have a feeling Alfie will always remember going to The Big Banana. Carl, too, lol! (I’m hoping they invite you to review their upgrade once it’s completed.) Their logo promises “It’s a whole bunch of FUN” and I can’t think of anyone who could do more justice word-wise. Great post!

  32. Alfie must have been pleased you kept your promise. I love the story behind the Big Banana, I bet it’ll be amazing after all the money is spent on it. GG

  33. Well, good on you for giving it a try.

  34. I didn’t see any mention of a bar, Charlie. If they aren’t going to maintain the park and area, the least they could do is offer the adults a beer or cocktail while their kids run from slide to slide. They may have a few more return visitors if part of that $200 million renovation is used to build a lounge. ;)

  35. How depressing! What we do/did for our little darlings! I loved Carl’s hopeful refrain of ‘Can we go now?’

  36. Huh, I was expecting a little more when I heard “water park”. Not just, as you said, a handful of blow-up stuff covered with water. That toboggan ride looks like fun though!

  37. Oh yes isn’t this a shocking place. The things we have to do. You did a great job and Alfie clearly loved it

  38. I’ll add The Big Banana in my Bucket list of places I wanna go to!

  39. Aah, what parents do for their children.
    Have a super weekend Charlie.
    :-) Mandy xo

  40. OMG i remember going to the Big Banana ages ago when I was a kid with my parents :) it was so much fun hahaha they had this little train that goes around! But funny enough I don’t remember seeing a lot of banana trees…or maybe I was too young :P Its been the longest time since I’ve gone on a toobogen ride! Miss it so much ~ A shame that it wasn’t the best day to go on a holiday but at least Alfie still had fun and wow 200 million dollars then it definitely should be worth going again!

  41. I am not sure if I’ve been to the Big Banana (maybe once when I was a kid? lol? my poor parents) but I had no idea how boring it was for adults! A shame the water park got so boring so quickly but at least the slide ride wasn’t too bad!

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