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The Twelve Apostles

One of the most visited natural attractions in Australia, the 12 Apostles attract travelers from all over the world. There is something alluring about coastal drives and to drive one that culminates in the dramatic scenery of the Victorian coastline where nature has shaped and eroded the cliffs into limestone pillars over many thousands of years is an added bonus.

Driving the route in a day is tiring and time will pass very quickly so it is important to be aware of how long the journey will take as there are so many stops along the way that are worth seeing – beaches, waterfalls, towns, rainforest, historic lighthouses, koalas and kangaroos…

Jump to our videos below to see what the road trip is like.

What are the Twelve Apostles in Australia?

The 12 Apostles are an Australian icon. The Ocean Road drive is likened to the coastal road of California and often ‘declared’ the best road trip in the world. A bit of an over the top description perhaps, though, it is fabulous, it is dramatic and it is worth visiting.

Limestone pillars, once connected to the cliffs of the Port Campbell National Park, rise out of the sea. Carved out over many thousands of years through the natural forces of nature, firstly as caves, then into arches and eventually becoming the limestone stacks they are today. Further along the coastline, ‘The Arch’, ‘London Bridge’ and the stunning ‘Grotto’ are reminders of how the landscape constantly changes.

Find the perfect itinerary to suit your adventure, whether self-driving or by tour bus.

Twelve Apostles - Gibsons Beach

View from the Twelve Apostles Viewing Area looking down to Gibsons Beach.

Where are the 12 Apostles?

Located in the Port Campbell National Park, Victoria. The distance from Melbourne: 227.5 km / 2 hours 50 minutes on the fastest possible route or 277 km / 4 hours 25 minutes on the scenic coastal drive (definitely the best option).

Map of the Great Ocean Road

ROUTEDISTANCETRAVEL TIME
TOTAL TIME8 HOURS DRIVING
Melbourne to Torquay104.5 kilometres/ 65 miles90 minutes
Torquay to Lorne46 kilometres / 28.5 miles50 minutes
Lorne to Apollo Bay47.3 kilometres / 29 miles60 minutes
Apollo Bay to Lavers Hill51.4 kilometres / 32 miles50 minutes
Lavers Hill to 12 Apostles40 kilometres / 25 miles45 minutes
12 Apostles to Port Campbell11.2 kilometres / 7 miles10 minutes
Port Campbell to Colac77.6 kilometres / 48 miles60 minutes
Colac to Melbourne152 kilometres / 94.5 miles2 hours

How many of the 12 Apostles are there?

We do not actually have Twelve Apostles. When named, only eight or nine were in the group, there are now six rock formations that can be seen from the main viewing platform.

There are more of the limestone rock stacks along what is known as ‘The Shipwreck Coast’, including some in the Bay of Islands Coastal Park further along towards the town of Warrnambool.

The Twelve Apostles in Australia

Why are they called the Twelve Apostles?

The ‘Sow and the Piglets’ was the name previously used to describe these beautiful formations, not a terribly romantic title at all. The Sow was what is now called ‘Mutton Bird Island’ in the Loch Ard Gorge section of the park and the piglets were all the rock stacks.

The previous name came about early in the 20th Century, it is not certain what prompted the new name but it is perhaps more appealing and better for tourism too.

As the coastline changes, so do some of the names of formations we have come to know. At Loch Ard Gorge what was previously known as ‘The Island Archway’ is now known as ‘Tom and Eva’ after the main arch collapsed creating two new islands. Tom and Eva were the only survivors from the infamous shipwreck of the Loch Ard in 1878.

A formation that was known as ‘London Bridge’ had an arch that connected it to the coast collapse in 1990, leaving two unsuspecting travellers stranded on the newly formed island section for a couple of hours till they could be rescued by helicopter. It was fortunate that no one was on the section that fell into the sea. It is now referred to as ‘London Arch’.

When is the best time to visit?

The 12 Apostles attract more visitors than any other location along the Ocean Road, numbers peaked at 11,000 visitors during the Chinese New Year recently – ON JUST ONE DAY!

Those numbers were extreme, but it does get insanely busy, especially when the day tour buses arrive mid to late afternoon. Sunset is also very busy. The quietest time of any day of the year is early morning.

The summer holidays (Christmas till the end of January) are the peak times, winter attracts fewer crowds and can be a wonderful time to experience the area.

Tips for visiting:

  • Free Parking is plentiful at the 12 Apostles visitor centre.
  • Toilets and drinking water available at the centre, 24 hours.
  • There are a small kiosk and gift shop at the centre, which closes at 5 pm – crazy for such a famous attraction.
  • Accommodation and cafes (even a microbrewery!) in Port Campbell, 12 minutes drive away.
  • There is a 2 km, gorgeous, walk along a well-made path to Gibson’s Steps from the main visitor centre.
  • Scenic helicopter flights leave from the visitor centre, awesome fun.
  • If possible, do this road trip over at least 2 days so that there is time to relax, read our one-day itinerary for an idea of what to expect and how much you can see.

Driving the Great Ocean Road – Videos

Our videos are a 6 part virtual journey along the Ocean Road to provide travellers with an idea of what to expect. Make yourself a drink and join us on the self-drive trip we recently did over two days. To discover more of the area, high up in the Otway Ranges, read about the waterfalls and camping areas.

The videos were all shot using the Go Pro Hero 7 Black.

Part 1: Melbourne to Lorne

Part 2: Lorne to Apollo Bay

Part 3: Apollo Bay to Triplet Falls

Part 4: Triplet Falls to the Twelve Apostles

Part 5: Loch Ard Gorge and Walking Trails

Part 6: The Arch, London Bridge & The Grotto

What to See & Do at the Twelve Apostles

1. Gibson’s Beach

This is the first stop when arriving at the Port Campbell National Park, and one of the best beaches to visit for dramatic scenery. It is not safe for swimming, though surfers can often be seen there. 88 steps lead down the cliff to the ocean and two of the famous rock formations can be seen as well as a section of the lookout from the 12 Apostles. The steps were hand carved into the cliff face over a century ago but were concreted for safety in the 1990’s.

When the tide is extra high, the steps are closed off as there is very little of the beach available to walk on at this time, otherwise, it is a fabulous spot to relax, walk and view the limestone cliffs from sea level.

Parking is very limited at Gibson’s Steps, if it is busy, drive 2 km’s to the large parking area at the Apostles visitor centre and follow the 2 km coastal path back, it is signposted clearly and a lovely, easy hike.

Gibsons Beach, Great Ocean Road

Gibsons Beach, Great Ocean Road

2. The 12 Apostles

No need to introduce these icons of the Great Ocean Road! There is plenty of room on the viewing platforms, though it does get crowded, the busiest time is mid to late afternoon.

12 Apostles in Australia

12 Apostles at sunset

3. Loch Ard Gorge

This area is simply awesome. The walks to the well known ‘Razorback’ formation, Shipwreck lookout and down into Loch Ard Gorge and the beach are the most popular but, if you have time, walk on to the small cemetery, Mutton Bird island viewing platform, Thunder Cave and down to the Sherbrooke River where it meets the ocean.

To do all the walks at Loch Ard Gorge it takes a few hours and covers about 8 km of trails, but is one of the most spectacular places to visit.

Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road

Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road

Tips:

  • No toilets or visitor facilities at Loch Ard Gorge
  • Swimming is allowed on the beach at Loch Ard Gorge, though at your own risk.
  • Do not swim on the beach at the Sherbrooke River as the current is strong and dangerous.
  • Watch out for snakes, do not approach one if seen, leave them alone and they generally leave you alone too.
Loch Ard Gorge Walk Port Campbell National Park

Loch Ard Gorge Walks – as tracked on WikiLoc App (free to download on Android and Apple).

4. The Arch, London ‘Bridge’ & The Grotto

A short drive from Port Campbell, on the road to Warrnambool, are more formations well worth visiting. The Arch involves a short walk to a viewing platform of this naturally formed arch that clings to the cliff. London Bridge, now known at London Arch, always attracts crowds and ‘The Grotto’ is an especially interesting formation to walk down to.

Further along the road, the Bay of Islands Coastal Park is near the end of this incredible drive and less than an hour from the town of Warrnambool.

Great Ocean Road Australia - The Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto

The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto

The Shipwreck Coast

Immigrants and supplies were brought to the country via what was a major shipping route through the Bass Strait. Many ships would sail via Cape Town, across the Southern Ocean and through what was described as the ‘eye of the needle’ – the relatively narrow gap between King Island and Cape Otway.

It was a treacherous part of the journey, over 200 ships came to grief along this section of the Victorian Coastline. The 12 Apostles Information Centre in Port Campbell has a small scale model of the most famous wreck, ‘The Loch Ard’ which wrecked in 1878 with only 2 survivors. The historic shipwreck display at the centre is well worth visiting.

Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village in Warrnambool is an extensive museum and displays many shipwreck artefacts recovered from some of the 200 ships that came to grief along the coast. Items range from everyday products owned by passengers and ship items to a famous Peacock statue from the Loch Ard wreck, valued at $4 million. The peacock was designed by Paul Comolera in 1873 and fired at the Minton pottery at Stoke on Trent, England. It was destined for the International Exhibition of 1880 in Melbourne.

Melbourne to the 12 Apostles

The drive direct along the coast to the Twelve Apostles is over 4 hours, non-stop. Read our one-day self-drive itinerary to find out the best places to stop along the way and to get a realistic time table so that you can see everything along the way. Take a few days, if possible, to tour the coast which will enable you to drive inland to see beautiful waterfalls and rainforest. Stay in one of the towns along the way.

Apollo Bay to 12 Apostles

Apollo Bay is often used as a holiday base as it is midway along the Ocean Road, offers a beautiful beach as well as drives into the rainforest with waterfalls and walking trails.

From the town, it is about 90 minutes drive / 87 km to the Port Campbell National Park, which can be done as a day trip. There is so much to do once in the 12 Apostles area, so aim to leave Apollo Bay early enough to be able to enjoy the experience and, preferably, return to Apollo Bay before dark.

The road goes inland through forest and farmland before climbing to the top of the Otway Ranges at Lavers Hill then descending through more forest and farmland to the coast again.

12 Apostles Accommodation

Finding accommodation near 12 Apostles is easy, most motels and cabins are located in Port Campbell which is a 12-minute drive from the Port Campbell National Park where the Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and Gibson’s Steps are located.

Camping and caravan parks (including some lovely free campsites) are plentiful all along the coastal drive.

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For many people, this may be a once in a lifetime journey, it is worth doing at a slower pace…

The Twelve Apostles in Australia

The Twelve Apostles in Australia