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When travel bears fruit…

Fruit of the loon: The 13m-long Big Banana on a plantation in Coffs Harbour should be at the top of any bucket list PIC: ALAMY

WHILE staring up at the giant yellow banana, I let out a tiny squeak of joy. It was bigger, better and even brighter than I dreamed it would be, a true wonder of the new world. I’d read about Australia’s penchant for Big Things — the giant fibreglass advertising icons that have popped up around the country since the 1960s — and visiting the first one, the 13m-long Big Banana on a plantation in Coffs Harbour, was right up there with Sydney Opera House and Uluru on my Aussie bucket list.

It seems I’m not the only one who likes an alternative attraction. A plastic supermarket tunnel has made headlines because of its current status as Bude’s top tourist sight on TripAdvisor. The 70m-long Perspex tunnel that links Sainsbury’s to a car park was rated the Cornish seaside resort’s best attraction , receiving more than 170 five-star reviews, with some reviewers hailing it as ‘one of the seven wonders of the world’ and ‘a modern Taj Mahal’. While the reviews were no doubt written with tongues firmly in cheeks, I’m pretty sure that next time I’m in Cornwall, I’ll be making a special detour to get a selfie with the famous tunnel.

The curious, quirky and downright bizarre attractions can often say more about a destination and its people than its mainstream tourist sights. In Seattle you’ll find both visitors and locals flocking for a selfie at the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market, Technicolor graffiti made from globs of used chewing gum, which says far more about alternative Seattleites than the Space Needle.

My favourite alternative attractions are often movie pilgrimages. On a recent visit to Washington DC, I eschewed a tour of the White House in favour of the Tombs bar in Georgetown, which was Rob Lowe and Judd Nelson’s beloved local in St Elmo’s Fire. And in New York, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building come way down my hit list after Katz’s Deli (When Harry Met Sally) and the steps of Carrie Bradshaw’s brownstone apartment building from Sex And The City.

Once in Las Vegas, I ditched the crowded casinos and the kitsch hotels for an overnight trip to Tonopah, a dusty silver mining town a hundred miles north-west of the Strip. I’d heard rumours about its Clown Motel, a proper Psycho-style inn that has more than 500 clowns on display, including a creepy life-size Ronald McDonald. And with last week’s news that Thailand is indefinitely closing Maya Bay — made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Beach — due to tourist damage, perhaps it’s time to make way for a few new wonders of the modern world.