The Big Orange in South Australia

the big orange
The Big Orange in Berri. Source: Mapio.net

There are more than 150 Big Things in Australia, and the Big Orange is among the most famous. This historic orange sculpture is regarded as one of the biggest Big Things of Australia under the fruit category. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

What is the Big Orange?

The Big Orange is a 15-metre tall and 12-metre-wide orange landmark located in Riverland, Berri, South Australia. It features a souvenir shop, café, function room, a 360-degree mural, and a lookout area.

The history of the Big Orange in Riverland

To understand the reason for the construction of the Big Orange in Berri, let’s take a quick look at the history of this South Australian town.

Berri has been an agricultural and viticultural town for decades, thanks to its conducive weather and proximity to River Murray. Actually, the name “Berri” derives from the local Aboriginal tribe named Meri, meaning “a wide bend in the river.”

Berri was declared a town in 1911, one year after the official establishment of irrigation to support the local fruit orchards and vineyards. At the time, orange farming had become increasingly popular in the region, which also led to the establishment of secondary industries such as wine production, fruit juice processing and fruit packing.

The purpose of constructing the Big Orange was to showcase the town’s horticultural activities to the rest of Australia and the world. Given its stunning size and realistic appeal, this gigantic structure would also be used to attract tourists to Berri, thus improving the town’s economy, whilst rewarding the hardworking fruit farmers through sales. 

In the 1970s, three friends Bronte Coombe, David Marshall and Vern Chubb came together to build the Big Orange. They invested $145,000 into the project, which was officially opened on January 14, 1980. At the time, it was reportedly the ‘largest sphere in the Southern hemisphere’.

How the Big Orange was built 

John Twopenny, an architect from Adelaide, was the brain behind the design of the Big Orange. Twopenny is also famous for designing the Big Rocking Horse of Gumeracha, which was launched in 1981. Hoffmann Engineering is the company that transformed the idea of the Big Orange into reality, making it one of the largest Big Things in Australia under the fruit category. The structure is made of fiberglass panels which are held together by a steel frame, and weighs approximately 85 tonnes.

To access it, there is a footbridge sitting at the base of the structure. Inside the Big Orange, there are four floors: the function room in the first floor, a souvenir shop and café in the second, a 360 mural of the local scenery at the third level, and a lookout at the fourth floor. The lookout provides a panoramic view of the local orchards.

the big orange
The entrance of the Big Orange. Source: Pinterest

The new owners

Two decades after its official opening, the Big Orange was sold for approximately $120,000 to an employment and training agency named RivSkills. The new owners used the iconic sculpture as an Enterprise Learning Center, but this only lasted two years.

For the second time, the Big Orange was forced to shut down, citing ‘financial loses and management issues. In 2006, exactly two years after the shutdown, a Cooltong-based horticulturist named Kevin Dickerson purchased the Big Orange, hoping to expand the property to attract business opportunities. However, due to the rising costs of fuel, and the decade-long drought, the new owner abandoned his initial plans to expand the Big Orange, consequently handing it over to liquidators.

In October 2008, the Big Orange was placed on auction. Potential buyers were given several options to choose from: buying the iconic sculpture, the land, and the water entitlement separately. However, the Big Orange did not attract any bids at the auction, but it eventually found a new buyer in November. The new owner reportedly plans to keep it at its current location and restore its lost glory by reopening it to the public.

Over the years, in an attempt to revive the once-famous Big Thing, several suggestions have been floated by interested parties. In 2008, when insolvency firm BRI Partners put the historic monument on auction, one of the suggestions for potential new owners was to transform it into a huge golf ball. This was supposedly meant to give it a fresh appeal among the locals and tourists as well.

The golf ball idea also derived from the fact that the Berri is one of the most famous destinations for golfing in Southern Australia. Having a giant golf ball structure would attract attention and spread awareness about the sport in this small town.

One of the craziest suggestions, however, came in 2018. Probably tired of waiting for the Big Orange to be restored, a Change.org petition called for its transformation into a strip club by 2020. The petition, started by Renmark resident Paul Nikolis, was just a joke. But what’s surprising is it collected at least 100 signatures on the first day. To date, it has gathered more than double the number of signatures it had on its first day.

Even though the Big Orange has not been reopened as a strip club, the response to the petition proves just how much the local town is in love with this monument, and would rather turn it into something than watch it waste away.

Fun things to do when you visit the Big Orange in Riverland

Most of the locals in Berri have fond memories of the Big Orange, as many of them grew up visiting the structure frequently. At the moment, it is still closed to the public but can be viewed by the roadside.

However, the historic structure still stands tall and proud despite the many challenges it has faced in the recent past. Many people still consider it a tourist attraction and an excellent background for photography. If you are interested in Australia’s Big Things, the Big Orange is still worth a visit.

Furthermore, the gigantic orange monument aside, Berri is a beautiful town worth exploring, including the entire Riverland region. Just as the name suggests, Riverland offers a plethora of aquatic-based activities to choose from.

You can hire a kayak or canoe and puddle through the backwaters of the Murray River, sample some of the wine produced from the local horticultural industry and embark on the Murray River Walk. Whether you are looking for arts and culture events, kids and family activities, sports and recreation, shopping, or tours, Riverland offers these and so much more!

Other big oranges in Australia

The Big Orange of Riverland is not the only gigantic fruit of its type. There are several others across Australia as shown below.

The Big Orange of Tenterfield: Just like Berri, Tenterfield is known for citrus farming. The Big Orange of Tenterfield was constructed to celebrate this region’s farming industry and open it up to visitors.

The Big Orange of Gayndah: Gayndah is a town located in the North Burnett Region of Queensland. The Big Orange in this town was launched in 1977 as a commemoration of the town’s citrus farming industry. The town also hosts the Gayndah Orange Festival every two years to celebrate the orange farming industry.

The Big Orange of Lockyer Valley: Located at the corner of Lake Clarendon Way and Crowley Vale Road, The Big Orange in Lockyer Valley is much smaller than the one in Berri. It is surrounded by stores that sell fresh produce from local markets, offering the perfect opportunity for visitors to sample what farmers in this this region have to offer.

The Big Orange in Harvey: Located in Harvey, Western Australia, this big orange structure sits atop a 10-metre tower. It also comes with an additional 4-metre staircase that leads to the viewing area located inside the orange. It was recently restored by Australian company Harvey Fresh. Inside the orange, visitors can learn more about the history of the town and check out photos and other educative materials.

The giant orange is currently located at the Harvey River Estate, a famous local award-winning winery. It stands proudly as the symbol of the town and a brilliant marketing strategy for the local fruit farming industry.

Despite being tossed from one owner to another in the recent past, the Big Orange from Riverland still holds great value to the locals, not forgetting its rich history. It is one of the longest-standing Big Things of Australia, and the biggest of all ‘big fruits.’ This alone, is enough to convince you to visit Berri and be part of its history. As mentioned earlier, Riverland is such a beautiful place to visit. There are countless of activities to chose from, including beautiful places and things to see for both individuals, friends, and families.

If you enjoyed reading about the story of the Big Orange, we have also covered over Big Things on our blog that you may be interested in. Please remember to subscribe to our newsletter so you may stay updated on everything about Big Things.

We also have a Big Things store featuring T-shirts on some of the most famous big things in Australia. These include The Big penguin, The Big Kangaroo, The Big Jumping Crocodile and The Giant Koala. They are available in baby sizes all the way up to adult sizes.

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