25 Funny Things on Google Maps
Land Art and Map Accidents
It's fun to explore the world through the eyes of Google maps. It's amazing what weird and crazy things people have mowed into fields, painted on roofs, or added to roundabouts.
These glimpses from above are often temporary. Some of my favorite Google Maps landmarks have been demolished over the years. There was a huge question mark on a construction site in Bretagne, France, but buildings have now covered it over. There was a Batman signal on a swimming pool in Illinois that was painted over by homeowners with more taste (boo!), although there's another bat signal in Kadena AFB, Okinawa, Japan to make up for it (see picture above). Others sights change from year to year, like the creepy decaying rabbit in the hills of Italy, or a whimsical field maze by a working farm in Newton, Connecticut.
I'll take you a tour of some of these strange sights and dig up some information on famous Google Maps landmarks. Having updated this page several times over the years, I think I'm actually up to thirty oddities at this point.
Happy Valentine's Day from Croatia
Galešnjak, aka Lover's Island
This tiny island lies in the Adriatic Sea between Italy and Croatia. Despite the fact that the island is an inhospitable barren blob, its owners, the Juresko family, have been trying to capitalize on their property's internet fame for years.
The island is about 32 square acres, and the last I checked it had no fresh water or structures, apart from the pier. Nevertheless, the Jureskos have been marketing it as "Lover's Island" since it was first featured by Google Earth in 2009.
Those two bulldozed scars you see are an attempt to replant the island with olive groves. I'm not sure how that figures into the owners' hopes to turn it into a dream wedding location, but good luck to them.
Happy St. Paddy's Day
Shamrock Maze in Dublin
Here's a fun hedge maze south of the Dublin airport on the side of the freeway, er...what do they call major roads in Ireland? Oh, right. Motorway. I think.
I can't find any information about it, but exploring the area in Google Street View shows the road leading to it is barred by a big metal gate. The sign warns that it's private property guarded by attack dogs.
Maybe the leprechauns finally figured out that a rainbow isn't a very good security device. Bummer.
Luecke Farm, Texas
Deep in the Heart of Texas
...is a farmer who's very proud of his last name.
Luecke Farm is a ranch about an hour southeast of Austin. The farmer cleared away most of the trees for grazing his cattle, but left some woodland standing as a habitat for wildlife.
Not only is this an environmentally responsible thing to do, but also, NASA uses this three-mile-long landmark to calibrate satellite and aerial photography instruments!
It's interesting enough to have attracted YouTube video flyovers. Yes, there are all kinds of Internet fame.
"Welcome to Cleveland"
Thanks to the quirky humor of one Mark Gubin, this rooftop has been visible on the final approach to the General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (off the map to the south) since 1978.
That's right: as your plane approaches Milwaukee, you can look out and see this sign.
I have to admit, this is one of my very favorites, although I imagine it's caused a few panic attacks among passengers.
Pac-Man Game on Breckenridge Road, Tewksbury, MA
RIP Giant Pac-Man Game
I'd love to have my neighborhood turned into a giant Pac-Man game, but the crunching sound would probably keep me up at night.
Alas, Tewksbury finally got around to repaving this development, so the Pac-Man and ghosts are gone. I took a screenshot of it in Google Maps years ago when I noticed the paint was starting to fade (in the photo, you can still see the fading ghost and Pac-Men munching down the street), so here it is for posterity.
The Dying Giant Rabbit
Giant Pink Plush Rabbit in Italy
Google Maps doesn't really give you an indication of just how terrifying this giant pink bunny rabbit really is. It's 55 feet long and it is a monster. It was knitted—yes, knitted—by a group of artists from Vienna who call themselves Gelitin. They plan to leave the rabbit up until 2025, but I think it will have rotted away before then.
Note: Check the link to see what it looked like when it was new. The article says that the rabbit is visible from space, but this is a common misconception. In fact, at this resolution Google maps are tiled aerial photos taken by low-flying aircraft. If you zoom out in Google Maps, at a certain point, the colors suddenly become more saturated. That's when you've switched to satellite photos.
Walking Man, Munich
Attack of the 50-Foot White Guy
Munich sets the record for world's largest jaywalker? Seventeen meters tall, he's been poised to cross Leopoldstraße since 1995.
Here are photos by the artist, Jonathan Borofsky, showing the construction of "Walking Man." To my surprise, he built it in California, then had it shipped in pieces.
"Walking Man" was commissioned by Munich Re, a reinsurance company. Their building is equally artsy, but more neoclassical than modern. You'll have to take my word for it, since Google dropped Street View from Germany after one too many privacy lawsuits.
Stealth Bomber Swimming Pool
Whiteman AFB, MO
Google maps kept this swimming pool blurred for a while, but the secret is out: stealth bombers are amphibious! See that link for what this pool looked like in 2007, before it turned icky.
Sadly, this swimming pool and the grounds around it have seen better days. Sports fields and facilities appear to be falling into disrepair. They're located on the outskirts of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home of the B-2 Stealth Bomber. My guess is that the swimming pool is part of a school that is now closed.
Cruise Ship Mall, Hong Kong
For many years, there was a strange sign near the harbor in San Diego that read, "Cruise ships use airport exit." Apparently this ship followed the sign, made a wrong turn, and got trapped in a forest of giant Twitter hashtags.
Actually, this is a ship-shaped shopping center in the middle of Whampoa Gardens, a colossal apartment complex in Hong Kong built on the site of former dockyards.
The Whampoa, 110 meters long and several stories high, includes shops, cinemas, restaurants, and a mini indoor theme park.
Playground in Valencia, Spain
In Valencia, Spain, poor Gulliver of Gulliver's travels is still being tormented by the Lilleputians. In fact, you can join them.
There's all sorts of interesting things around Gulliver, so I've left this map zoomed out a bit. He's at upper left, the Gardens of Turia at lower right.
Here's more close-up photos of Parque Gulliver's awesomeness. He's been delighting children since he opened to the public (literally!) in 1990.
Here's another clever use of land: the Turia river used to flood the city of Valencia, sometimes fatally, so they diverted the river away from the city and turned its bed into green spaces and parks!
Henge and Crop Circle
Avebury, Wiltshire, UK
One of my favorite places in the world is Avebury, a village inside a Neolithic stone circle. It's less well-known than Stonehenge, but to my mind it's a lot more fun walking around inside a henge than looking at it from outside, even if some of the stones here have been lost.
The slightly wobbly earthen circle is the henge surrounding the village. As of August 2011, there's a crop circle just NE of the village; circles like this appear frequently near Avebury and around Stonehenge thanks to an especially active group of crop circle artists in Wiltshire.
(Update: Looks like Google maps is preserving the 2011 crop circle for posterity. I'll grab a screenshot, just in case it goes away.)
The Atacama Giant, Chile
This giant is about 1000 years old and 280 feet long.
There are a ton of huge glyphs in the deserts of Chile and Peru created by the Inca and Tiwanaku civilizations from about 800 AD up until the Conquistadors stamped out the old civilizations in the region.
Here's a scholarly paper (although it's a student paper, so take it with a grain of salt) that digs into the cultural history of the giant and the whole region.
UFO Landing Pad
Aliens Welcome Mat in Holland
The Dutch town of Houten has created an official landing pad for UFOs, complete with traffic advisory lights to help guide aliens down. (We'll just have to hope they can figure out the signals.) This art piece by Martin and Inge Riebeek is quite beautiful at night.
To my surprise, while researching it, I discovered that there is also a UFO landing pad in St. Paul, Canada and another in Ares, France which has actually been visited by aliens. And don't forget the countless air travelers through LAX who have dined at the '60s kitsch "Encounter" UFO-shaped restaurant overlooking the runway.
Parking Lot Burial Plot in Louisville, KY
Cemeteries in Odd Places
Unfortunately, the human race keeps on being fruitful and multiplying, which leads to a certain amount of urban sprawl around formerly rural cemeteries.
Here's the family plot of the 1800s Burks family farm (dark green square), now enclosed in a mall parking lot right next to a McDonald's and Home Depot. Ouch.
While this may look odd in America, in many parts of the world where available land is at a premium, the tug-of-war between old burials and modern buildings stretches back for centuries. In fact, the Paris catacombs were a drastic solution to the problem, where bodies exhumed from cemeteries within the city limits were moved to old limestone mining tunnels.
"Fingermaze" in Brighton, UK
Fingerprint on Lens
Who knew that you could get a fingerprint on the lens of a satellite camera?
Chris Drury's "Fingermaze," commissioned by the city of Brighton, is a modern land-art piece like the more famous "Spiral Jetty" by Robert Smithson.
Here's a webpage on the "Fingermaze" with a teacher's information packet talking about other such mazes.
But really, I just like mazes. They're fun to walk around in, fun to look at from above. Here's another personal favorite, Longleat, which has sprouted sprouted two more mazes since my last visit.
Katavi Park, Tanzania
Hungry Hungry Hippos
Finding wild animal herds is one of the more challenging Google Maps hunts, since there's usually no landmarks or addresses anywhere near them. Finding herds of animals is like finding Easter eggs, but Google Maps enthusiasts have located a number of these eggs. In this image, the two greenish patches contain herds of hippos. To zoom in and see them, click the “+” on the Google window above.
Other African critters on Google Maps include:
- Camels: 15°17'40.32" N 20°28'47.42" E
- Buffaloes: 4°17'21.49" S 31°23'46.46" E
- Elephants: 10°54'13.66" N 19°56'06.15" E
- Flamingos: 21°50'36.15" S 35°27'00.60" E
- Oryx: 24°57'18.60" S 15°51'30.61" E
- Seals: 18°26'45.45" S 12°00'44.20" E
Just plug those coordinates into Google Maps and zoom in. A lot.
Farm Maze, Connecticut
Alien Messages in Newtown
Castle Hill Farm's maze varies from year to year. In 2011, it was a big spiderweb; in 2012, it was a couple of cow heads sending a cryptic greeting to "Mom," and for 2013, they did something that looked like a cross between daisies and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Notice they've incorporated "2013" as part of the design. Get with the program, Google: what did they do for 2014?
Three cheers for aerial photography champions who keep updating their desktops for passing planes. It's a lot harder to do with a tractor.
Secret Military Squiggles
Weird Lines in China
There's a bunch of these in the remote parts of China, and they're enormous.
My theory is that they're some inane government or penal make-work project designed to keep people busy. "Let's make bizarre maze-grids in the desert and puzzle those Americans!" But no. As expected, they're military in purpose. Some are weapons-testing areas, while others are calibration targets for spy satellites.
I suppose they're more classy-looking than some dude's farm in Texas that says "Luecke."
Australia's Floating Man Dock
G'day, Nessie Mate!
Australian Park Sculptures
Washington Waters Park in Southport, Queensland appears to have a floating dock that flew in from Minecraft, which is impressive, given the dock is older than the video game.
Meanwhile—Oh, is that where Nessie went? She sure gets around. Apparently Nessie has moved Down Under to a children's playground in Bondi, New South Wales, next to a pleasant park for sunbathing and a public beach.
Pleasant, that is, if you're not worried about the giant crocodile to the southeast of Nessie.
The Bulford Kiwi
New Zealanders in the UK
It's a bit stretched and skinny in the Google Maps version, and it's also rather more serious than most of the items on this page. The Bulford Kiwi was created by WWI New Zealand soldiers camped in Wiltshire, England, stuck waiting for a ship home. Nowadays it's also considered a memorial to the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) killed in the infamous battle of Gallipoli.
Here's a tourist's photo gallery showing close-up images of the Kiwi and its commemorative plaque.
The tradition of carving figures into the chalks of Wiltshire goes back to Neolithic times. See the Uffington White Horse for a famous example.
Fighter Jet In an Odd Spot
Misplaced Aircraft in France
France joins the creative parking brigade with a fighter plane in the Paris West University Nanterre La Défense parking lot.
I can't find any information about it, apart from an unconfirmed comment that the university used to be connected to the aviation industry (which does at least make sense).
Alas, a lot of the weirdly-parked vehicles of Google Maps have wandered off. The giant VW Spider-Bug on the roof of a Reno, NV building has been removed, and the car on the side of a building is nearly impossible to see now.
Russian Space Shuttle
The Buran Space Shuttle: This Makes Me Sad
Then again, since I first wrote this article, I watched our space shuttle program end, and I can now go visit Endeavour, grounded and decommissioned, whenever I like.
As of 2014, the only manned spacecraft in operation are Russia's Soyuz rockets, updated versions of a 1960s design, and China's 10-year-old Shenzhou rockets.
Beitou Incinerator, Taiwan
Oh, look, it's more art for aliens to admire.
Taiwan treats city waste disposal as a place for art. I like it!
This incinerator for Tapei generates electricity for the city, and its chimney sports a snazzy observation tower with an aerial restaurant. The official homepage includes a 360° pan from the top of the tower (scroll down to see).
If that weren't enough, the incinerator also boasts a swimming pool with free swimming lessons, since drowning is the leading cause of death for children in Taiwan.
Friendly Oil Refinery
Someone had fun decorating these oil tanks in Norfolk, Virginia.
These are obviously old, but it turns out that some companies are just now beginning to optimize their rooftop painting as free advertisements which, they hope, will look good in Google Maps. Company logos and signs are boring, however. I much prefer silly signs, friendly signs, annoyed complaints, Waldo, teenagers painting inappropriate body parts on their parents' roofs, and the occasional rooftop marriage proposal.
(Most of the above are no longer on Google maps, but they were there once.)
World Map by Søren Poulsen
Denmark World Map
The artist of this amazing work, Søren Poulsen, created this map between 1944 and 1967 by hand, dragging stones out onto the edge of the lake using a sledge on ice during the winter (clever!) and levering them into position during the thaw.
At about 50 by 100 yards across, it includes miniature lakes, rivers, and other marked features, plus mini boats for kids to sail the "Pacific Ocean" in the summer, an 18-hole mini golf course, a petting zoo, playground, and a picnic area.
Madurodam Park, The Hague
Miniature City in Holland
Madurodam: City within a city
The Madurodam is an entire miniaturized city, airport, canal, and railroad. All buildings are 1:25 scale, most are replicas of real places in the Netherlands, and they all help tell the history and legends of Holland.
On Google Maps, use the nearby parking lot and people-shadows to get a sense of scale.
Below is a great video showcasing most of the nooks and crannies of this fascinating landmark. Go to 3:30 for the world's largest ducks or the world's tiniest cows.
Which is your favorite funny thing on Google Maps? - Vote in the poll or leave a comment in the guestbook below!
Which is your favorite of the crazy things on Google?
Even MORE Funny Things on Google Maps
- The Amazing iOS 6 Maps
Celebrating all the bugs, fails, and bizarre visuals of Apple iPad's new Maps App.
- Bizarre Bridges in Google Earth
Topographical mapping follows the contours of the land. Bridges do not. Oops.
The motherlode of funny pictures and interesting things found on Google Maps, this site will keep you distracted for hours. Also includes a huge amount of odd sights snapped by the Google Street View Car, including insane scuba divers.
- Strange Google Earth Places—Rodsbot.com
A large collection of Google Maps oddities.
The focus of this site is not just funny things, but satellite and street views of interesting things and local attractions around the world.
Earth From Above
by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
I've bought this for parents and grandparents as a Christmas present, and love browsing it when I visit. Some of the photos are truly astounding. The ones I love best take an everyday thing—like a bazaar or a plowed field—and zoom out to make a gorgeous abstract mosaic.
I hope you enjoyed your journey to some of Google Maps' more unusual landmarks. Don't forget to share "25 Funny Things on Google Maps" with your friends!
© 2011 Ellen Brundige