The Big Pineapple

The Big Pineapple

Big Pineapple opened in 1971, as part of the Sunshine Plantation – an early example of agricultural tourism.

Located in Woombye in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Region, the sixteen-metre-tall fibreglass Big Pineapple is arguably Queensland’s most iconic ‘big thing’.

Pineapples have long been a significant crop in the area around Woombye, Palmwoods, Eudlo, and Beerburrum, with production increasing following the opening of the Golden Circle cannery (then the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing Company cannery) at Northgate in 1947.

Big Pineapple opened in 1971, as part of the Sunshine Plantation – an early example of agricultural tourism. Inspired by local farming practices, Bill and Lyn Taylor purchased a pineapple farm and established it as a tourist attraction, showcasing tropical produce, including fruit, nuts, and sugarcane. The plantation was also a working farm. Visitors could ride a small train through the farm’s crops, watch demonstrations of cultivating and harvesting methods, and consume food made from homegrown produce in its restaurant.

In 1978, the plantation added the ‘Nutmobile’ tour, in which visitors rode a train with carriages shaped like macadamia nuts and visited a macadamia processing factory. The Big Pineapple was at the peak of its popularity in the 1980s, when it attracted 800,000 visitors a year and was even visited by Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

In 1981, the Taylors sold the property to Lanray Industries Limited. The new owners purchased additional land and extended the Nutmobile tour to include a section of rainforest. During the 1980s, the Big Pineapple also opened a new restaurant and an exhibition of Queensland minerals and gems. In 1985, Lanray sold the property to Queensland Press Limited.

During the 1990s, the Big Pineapple added a rainforest walk, an animal nursery, an ‘Arts and Crafts Gallery’, and a ‘Wildlife Garden’ housing native animals including koalas. Its popularity was waning by 1996, when it was purchased by Roughend Pineapple Pty Ltd. By 2003, it owed the Australian Taxation Office $500,000 and was so far in debt it was facing the possibility of sale or closure.

In 2009, it went into receivership. Ironically, the pineapple and surrounding buildings were heritage-listed the same year. Closed between 2010 and 2011, in 2011 it was purchased by a consortium who used it as a much-diminished tourist attraction and a site for the sale of Queensland produce. The current owners are considering adapting the site as a food and eco-tourism destination. Today, it houses the Wildlife HQ Zoo and the Big Pineapple visitor area. Since 2013, it has also hosted the Big Pineapple Music Festival.

Photograph of The Big Pineapple from the RHSQ collection

The Miss International Air Hostess Quest

The Miss International Air Hostess Quest

Entrant in the 1967 Miss International Air Hostess Quest

Between 1963 and 1969, the Gold Coast hosted the Miss International Air Hostess Quest.

It lived up to its name, attracting contestants from countries as diverse as the United States, West Germany, Sweden, India, Canada, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Peru. It was intended partially as an opportunity for flight attendants to compare notes on how different airlines approached in-flight service.

Despite the name, its founder, former Surfer’s Paradise newspaper editor Alex McRobbie, insisted that it was not a beauty contest with contestants ‘judged solely on their ability as flight attendants’. (In 1967, the entrant from QANTAS was the former beauty queen Miss Carolyn Haby. This was, no doubt, a wise choice, as the previous year, Peggy McCullough, ‘the North Carolina photo queen’, was placed second. In 1963, second place went to India’s Perin Spencer, who was also Miss Bombay 1962 and 1963.)

Protests notwithstanding, beauty was generally considered an essential quality for an air hostess in the 1960s and airlines often imposed strict guidelines monitoring their hostesses’ appearances, including their beauty routines and weight. Being married or over thirty were disqualifying factors.

Hostesses were also required to wear a range of striking uniforms. (Japanese hostesses flying with QANTAS between Australia and Japan were required to wear kimonos and hostesses working as part of Ansett-ANA’s ‘Golden Supper Club Service’ wore gold lame dresses.) The competition did have a charitable side. In 1969, it collected donations for the International Multiple Sclerosis Society. It also provided an opportunity to showcase the Gold Coast, with entrants in 1967 being photographed with a lobster, in a vintage car, and feeding lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.