I’m not sure when I first saw a photo of the Big Pineapple. It might have been in a blog post, or maybe somewhere on Instagram. But I do know one thing for certain: The moment I saw the Big Pineapple, it rocketed to the top of my South African must-see list.

The Big Pineapple in Bathurst, Eastern Cape

I can’t explain why the Big Pineapple became such an obsession for me. I mean don’t get me wrong, pineapples are freaking delicious and I love eating them as much as the next person. But with all the amazing, beautiful sights to see in South Africa, why did I care so much about visiting a 16.7-meter (55-foot) tropical fruit that is a ten-hour drive from Joburg?

I don’t have an answer for you. I can only tell you it is so. And now that I’ve finally seen it — in the bright-yellow, fibreglass flesh — I am pleased to report the Big Pineapple is every bit as glorious as I hoped it would be.

Heather at the Pineapple
Thorsten at the Pineapple
Thorsten and Heather in front of the Pineapple
The Blogitects in front of the Big Pineapple, in multiple configurations. One can’t take too many photos of this masterpiece.

A bit of background on the Big Pineapple:

  • It is largest pineapple in the world.
  • The structure stands in the middle of an experimental pineapple field — there are all kinds of unusual pineapples growing there, of various shapes and sizes and colors — on a working farm called Summerhill, which is just outside the town of Bathurst.
  • It was completed in 1991 by a group of local producers who sought to “give visitors a fun-filled one-stop insight into RSA Pineapple cultivation, processing and marketing” (according to a placard in the museum).
  • It is three stories tall — four, if you include the viewing deck on top — and made of concrete, steel, and (as previously stated) fibreglass.
  • Its design was presumably inspired by Maison Domino, a structure created by the French architect Le Corbusier in 1915. (This obscure fact is filed under “things you learn while visiting giant man-made fruits with your architect boyfriend”.)
  • There is a gift shop on the ground floor selling pineapple souvenirs, food products, and actual pineapples. The top two floors are a museum. Access to the gift shop is free but it costs R25 (about $1.75) per adult to visit the museum.
The gift shop
Thorsten sketches furiously while surrounded by pineapple-related kitch. I highly recommend the curried pineapple but I imagine all the homemade jams/relishes/chutneys for sale in the gift shop are delicious.
Pineapples for sale
Pineapples for sale in the gift shop. This part of South Africa, called the Sunshine Coast, is the country’s pineapple heartland. I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the pineapples grown here.
staircase
The spiral staircase, in the colors of both the featured fruit and the African National Congress.
View from the viewing deck
View of Summerhill from the viewing deck.

The museum is a bit tired. Many of the exhibitions are damaged, outdated, or just plain odd. But — at least for me, someone who relishes weirdness — the museum’s mediocre condition and strange, outdated exhibitions are part of its charm.

I will now present to you a visual explanation of the Big Pineapple, by South African architect and pineapple-lover Thorsten Deckler:

This is undoubtedly the coolest architectural drawing of a giant fruit every created. I think it deserves an award. See more of Thorsten’s work at @thethinking_hand.

One more important fact you need to know: Believe it or not, this isn’t the only huge, fake pineapple in the world.

There is another Big Pineapple in Queensland, Australia, which was built 20 years earlier and looks almost exactly the same. The South Africans built an exact copy of the Australians’ Pineapple but made theirs about a meter taller, ensuring the South African version is the biggest in world — at least until some other pineapple-growing nation (maybe Brazil?) decides to build an 18-meter-tall pineapple. This could be construed as kind of a dick move on the part of the South Africans. But I also think it’s kind of awesome: one pineapple-growing country sticking it to another, all in good, clean, sticky-yellow fun.

The Big Pineapple is on Route 67, just east of Bathurst, at Summerhill Farm. The shop and museum are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday, and 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sunday.

You can shoot photos outside at any time of day though, which is the best part of the experience in my opinion.

Heather at the Pine
Another angle.
One more. Okay I’m finished now.

Long live the Big South African Pineapple — may it remain the biggest in the world for all eternity.

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