The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign – Australia

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 27, 2010

Signs.  They’re everywhere, in every country.  Some are used for marketing products.  Some are made to be informative.  Others are intended to be authoritative.

When you’re in another country, it’s amazing how much signs can inform (or fail to inform) the foreign reader, but how they can also subtly impact the general perception of the whole country.

For example, in Australia, on our second day, we went to downtown Sydney.  Signs are EVERYWHERE in cities.  We found some that were very comforting and familiar to us.



Other signs, though seemed like they were almost familiar to us, but something about them was just a little off.

IMG_3275 Burger King, anyone?

IMG_5600 A rock is pretty much like a stone.  It didn’t immediately hit us, but notice the use of Urluru as “the Rock.”

Others simply indicated what in the U.S. you might be expected to know intuitively.

IMG_3281 Just look at how verbose this sign is.  It includes the policy, phone numbers for more information, the law under which it derives its authority (including its date/year).  It wasn’t a very big sign, either.  I would hate to have to read it while I was anxiously walking by (or worse, driving… although, it does seem like if you were driving with alcohol, this sign isn’t your biggest problem).  By the way, Aussies call it “drink driving,” not drunk driving.

This was all before we started driving, though.  Once we started driving, we noticed a whole new range of signs.  The sheer number of signs dedicated to wildlife was immense.  This is a large sample of the signs we saw for wildlife, but certainly isn’t all inclusive of what we saw, OR what we took pictures of.


There’s a lot of cattle in Australia.  A LOT.  We were actually pretty surprised at how much cattle and sheep there were, but really we didn’t see a lot of domestic, and what I’ll call “staple,” produce (things like potatoes, carrots, corn, wheat, etc.), vice things like ginger, mangoes, sugar cane, etc.  We saw LOTS of signs like the one above.

IMG_3840These are just as common as the cattle signs.  Kangaroo crossing signs are everywhere, but since kangaroos are nocturnal, you really only see them at dusk.  They’re a lot like whitetail deer like that.IMG_6872

It’s not uncommon to see a sign for several animals at once.  The bottom two are pretty obvious to us; cattle and ‘roos.  The top two, though, we’re really not sure.  We think the top right one is for possum (note that it’s not opossum), but I’m not sure what bird we were supposed to be watchful of, nor why we should be watchful of a bird that pretty clearly seems to be able to fly.


We THINK this is a peacock, but I didn’t know/think that the peacock is indigenous (or even imported) to Australia.  It could be something like an emu or cassowary (more in a moment), but it doesn’t look like either of those flightless birds, really.

IMG_6652No idea on this one.  Don’t even know where to start.

Beyond the number of signs, something else that was fascinating was the lack of consistency from place to place.  We saw lots of signs for koalas, but take a look at the next three signs for koalas.


Ok, so aside from this one being blurry (it’s harder than you might think to take pictures from a car moving at 100 kph), this one’s pretty straight forward.

IMG_4445I can’t think of any American sign where white copy on a yellow field is in order.  Here it is, though.

IMG_4399This guy just scares the crap out of you.  It made us less worried about running one over, and more worried that one might drop out of the trees, tear the roof off the car, and go straight for our tender, juicy, tasty eyeballs.  We kept our eyes out for this little guy WHEREEVER we went, and not just while driving.

We saw another picture or two for koalas, too, that weren’t like the ones above.  You’d think it would be standardized.  My brother said, though, that the signs are determined by the local government, so one town might approve one sign, and the next town over might approve a different sign, even though they both mean the same thing.  We thought that whole philosophy was probably pretty indicative of the entire culture surrounding national vs. state (or territory) vs. local impact on implementing policy issues.  If street signs aren’t nationally regulated, what IS nationally regulated?  Or perhaps the bigger question is, what else is it the small town’s responsibility to implement.  Consider, for example, the “town” of Marlborough, with 355 people, and the resources it would take just to determine the host of signs necessary to support the town’s needs.

As another example of localities having significant impact on signage, consider the cassowary outside of Mission Beach.  Here is another selection, but certainly nothing close to the entire set of pictures we have about the cassowary from the Mission Beach area.


The cassowary is a protected sub-species of the emu, from what we understand.  We were entering cassowary territory, now.

IMG_5712 Ok, good to know.  Interesting that HERE, they chose to use a picture of a cassowary, and not a silhouette image.

IMG_5714Ok, another warning sign.  We saw LOTS of these signs in our probably 25 km drive out to South Mission Beach.  We will be keeping our eyes out.


Here they’re appealing to my emotional side.  Alright, I get it.  Cassowaries are protected, and we need to protect them and their habitat.  Got it.


Holy crap!  How big ARE these things!?!?!  We assumed that cassowaries, a protected relative of the emu, was something like the height of a small man (5’-5’6”, maybe 300-500 lbs… something like that).  Evidently, from this sign, I should assume they are bigger than my car, and an accident will cause my car to up-end. IMG_5726 Killed cassowaries!?!  What about us!?!?  Evidently, if I get in an accident with one, and I still have my wits about me, I need to put it in reverse and come after it again, as it might get up and be angry!

As it turns out, all joking aside, they are not as big as these signs indicate, but they are about the size we thought.  They’re a little shorter than two meters, and they’re big, plump, flightless birds.  Evidently, though, they are VERY territorial, and the females especially will attack if humans come particularly close to them.  They have sharp claws and can pretty easily kill a human if antagonized.  We didn’t learn that until AFTER we safely reached our destination.

Some signs we never did figure out what they were trying to tell us.


IMG_6472 No, “S” eh?

Of all the signs, though, we found some that we thought were just funny.

IMG_3474 I’m not certain what has to happen for your wheels to actually cross, but I’m pretty sure it’s awful.  IMG_6743
This guy is not having a good day.


This was a sign I found at a lookout, but it was actually on the parking spot (parking bay, as the Aussies would say).  Notice the hood of the car in the picture.  It was ONLY on this one spot, too, which I thought was odd, despite the fact that there were lots of spots, and the lookout was the only thing to do.

Aside from all the other fun we’ve had here in Australia, we’ve managed to enjoy our road trips for lots of reasons, certainly not the least of which has been the signs.  I’m hoping to try to do this in most places we go (internationally), but I’m not sure how well this will translate (literally, almost) to non-English speaking countries.  We’ll see though.


4 Responses to “Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign – Australia”

  1. Bec said

    We have pictures of those same unstable cliff signs from the Great Ocean Road. Love those. 🙂 And that sign of the car and a cassowary is fantastic!

    I think, in the sign with the four different animals to watch out for, the one in the upper right is a koala. Can’t help you with the bird in the upper left, though. 🙂 And then the bird with the big tail might actually be a lyrebird, which makes me jealous that you were in lyrebird country (not that you saw any, I guess, so I shouldn’t be too jealous, right? :-)) — they’re endangered, because the domestic cats that people have brought into Australia kill them. 😦 And then the little blob creature with the pointy nose is an echidna, I think. (They’re little spiny anteater-y things.) We saw some of those signs, too. (There’s wombat crossing signs, too, in case you didn’t see any of those.)

    So there you go, some unsolicited answers to your sign questions. 🙂

    • My brother suggested the big-tailed bird was a peacock. He said they can be found in Australia, although I found his claim a bit dubious to be honest. I like your answer more. We did NOT, in fact, see any animals from the road besides kangaroos and koalas, which we’ve posted about. Thanks for following up, Bec!

  2. T said

    It’s definitely a lyrebird (there’s no way it would be a peacock) and definitely an echidna. The animal at the top right on the sign of four looks to be a bizarre representation of a koala.

    The no ‘S’ sign is ‘standing’ – as in no stopping your car there. You can hover briefly but you need to move on.

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