Surely a google search for the best things to do on the Great Ocean Road brings up a handful of attractions in Victoria such as visiting waterfalls, the best hiking trails and undoubtedly, the Twelve apostles in Victoria.
If you’re a first time visitor to our great state of Victoria then you’re most likely staying in the capital of Melbourne, surrounded by so many choices when it comes to day trips from Melbourne, however if a trip to the south west coast is on your itinerary then you should have a read of the best things to do on the Great Ocean road.
Read More>> Great Ocean road Itinerary
What are the Twelve Apostles?
Huge limestone rocks projecting out of the southern ocean in Victoria’s south west barwon region inside Port Campbell national park, sharing space with various other epic Great Ocean road attractions like Loch Ard Gorge, Bay of Islands and the lesser known Gog and Magog.
Formed roughly 10 million years ago, erosion caused by the huge swells and crashing waves of the southern ocean have reduced the number of limestone rocks over the years, the last one crashing in 2005.
Funnily enough there were never 12 apostles along the coast; a mere 8 apostles ever existed, but we thought 12 sounded better than 8.
The Twelve Apostles in Victoria are a HUGE tourist attraction and a major international destination for travellers to the region, seeing 13.9 million tourists, 2.9 million of those being international travellers.
Where are the twelve Apostles?
Located far west of Melbourne in the Barwon region of Victoria, the twelve Apostles technically are not inside the Great Otway national park but inside what is known as Port Campbell national park.
Roughly 275km west of Melbourne and a 4 hour drive to reach from the city, it’s one of the longer day trips out of Melbourne but if you take the Great Ocean road it’s also one of the prettiest drives from Melbourne.
The scenic route is why we drive, right? If you’re going to make a day out of it then make sure to stop at all the epic locations along the way, including Hopetoun falls, Lorne, the world famous Bells Beach and enjoy a local brew at the Great Ocean road brewhouse in Apollo Bay.
Related Article – The BEST day trips you can do from Melbourne
Exceptional tours on the Great Ocean road
Aside from breathtaking views and natural landscapes of the Twelve Apostles in Victoria there are plenty of opportunities to embark on guided tours and experiences in and around the Great Ocean Road, Great Otway national park & Port Campbell national park.
Travel around the great ocean road in a luxury mercedes benz
Experience the full great ocean road tour in a smaller group by starting at the 12 apostles and ending in Melbourne CBD
See natural landscapes, find koalas and birds and see some of the world’s tallest trees.
Admire the twelve apostles without the crowds, go deep into the otway rainforest and get some retail therapy in Lorne.
How to get to the Twelve Apostles
From Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles
The M1 is the Princes Hwy, known as many things along the way but follow the signs towards Geelong, taking the Geelong bypass to Torquay. Take the C134 exit at the roundabout known as Anglesea Road until you reach the B100, the Great Ocean Road.
From Apollo Bay
A lot quicker and shorter, taking just over 1 hour and 15 minutes, continue south west along the B100. When you reach Princetown road on your right, the turn off for the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre will be on your right in 2km.
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Best time of year to visit
Ultimately if you’re looking for sunshine every day then the summer months between December to February are the best times to visit the Twelve Apostles in Victoria; however this comes with a disclaimer..so does everyone else, so you are battling all the tourists with 10 times more cars, buses and traffic jams.
So…we recommend going in the off season after March and even mid-year for a couple of reasons..
- The rainfall is heavier in the middle of the year, hence waterfalls in the region are so much more beautiful and flowy
- You still get lots of sunshine with slightly cooler conditions but you won’t find the same number of tourists
- Things are cheaper in the off season, including accommodation, experiences and admissions.
The Twelve Apostles Marine Park
The waters off Port Campbell national park are considered a protected marine reserve, free from commercial and recreational fishing. It covers a 7500 hectare area off the south west coast and is managed by Parks Victoria.
A diversity of marine life extends this way, particularly during the winter months of the year when migratory whales including southern right whales and humpback whales venture here for raising calves in the warmer waters.
What to do in Port Campbell national park
Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre
The highlight of your trip along the great ocean road will be visiting the monumental Twelve Apostles in Victoria, within the Port Campbell national park and your journey begins by visiting the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre.
Here you can collect valuable information about the history of the Apostles and other tours and experiences in the area.
If you’re interested in experiencing the twelve apostles from the sky, the 12 apostles tours helicopter flights operate directly opposite the visitor centre, offering hourly flights over Port Campbell national park.
Port Campbell national park facilities
Opening hours– 930am to 5pm daily
Public toilets and disabled access is provided on site
Free Carpark on site that’s large, with an overflow during the peak season.
Located on Booringa Rd, Princetown 3269
From the Twelve Apostles Visitor centre begins the boardwalk that encompasses an easterly and westerly vantage point to see both the Twelve Apostles and Gog and Magog to the east.
There’s roughly half a kilometer worth of boardwalk between the visitor centre and the apostles’ lookout with the best time of day being sunrise or sunset.
Being here at these times means it’s never as busy as the middle of the day, but also seeing the colours of the southern sky rise and fall, often accompanied by a thick mystical layer of fog that sweeps the landscape makes for fantastic photography.
Hidden behind the twelve apostles visitor centre is a track that leads you back down east, parallel to the great ocean road for 500m that eventually juts onto the main road to the Gibson steps carpark.
From here, a steep descent down the wooden and steel railed staircase opens up to the Gibson beach foreshore.
It is the only place along the Port Campbell national park marine protected zone that allows for beach access, besides Loch Ard Gorge.
The views from the beach are both incredible and potentially dangerous as you stare out towards Gog and Magog so beware of the surging tide as it can periodically engulf the shore and anyone who’s on the beach as well.
If you’re driving from Apollo Bay, exactly 2km after Princetown rd turn off is a tiny turn off to the left that youll miss if you blink, which gives you access to the steps. It’s very small during peak season will almost always be full, hence you’re better off parking at the Twelve Apostles visitor centre.
Gog and magog
Most people turn east and see these two limestone structures and assume they are a part of the 12 apostles when in fact they are completely separate from each other but nonetheless impressive.
If you walk all the way along the boardwalk there is a special section dedicated to viewing gog and magog very few people are aware of.
Loch Ard Gorge
4km north of the 12 apostles you can find one of the most spectacular attractions within Port Campbell national park, Loch Ard gorge.
The colourful and tragic history of Loch Ard Gorge is illustrated by the two adjacent cliff faces known as Tom and Eva.
A tragic story of survival in the 1800s is now a popular tourist destination along the great ocean road. Whilst here you can also walk around and visit Mutton Bird island lookout. From the Loch Ard Gorge lookout, continue towards the following car park and stop for the views at Thunder cave.
Safety in Port Campbell national park
My everyday job is on the road working as a paramedic in Melbourne, so I am privy to certain information about rescue jobs and large incidents around the state. So I share this knowledge as a reminder of the power and force the ocean holds.
A number of years ago, a swimmer became caught at sea after wading in ever increasing waters out of the river mouth at Sherbrooke river.
He was swept out to sea when 2 volunteer lifeguards attempted to rescue him. Their boat capsized and they themselves became patients in need of our helicopter rescue team. Both men drowned in the incident and the original patient survived.
It is a constant reminder that no matter how strong of a swimmer you are, when the signs say don’t swim, don’t risk it.
Where to stay in Port Campbell national park – Close to the Twelve Apostles in Victoria
This depends on how much you want to spend vs how much you want to drive. There are two main towns surrounding this region, Princetown and Port Campbell; not very big towns by any means but the perfect little stops on a day trip from Melbourne.
Accommodation in Princetown – budget
- 12 Apostles cottages – A mere 4 km ‘as the crow flies’ from the twelve apostles, fantastic budget accommodation.
- 12 apostles motel and country retreat – unique country cottages that range anywhere from $75/room to $200/room
Accommodation in Port Campbell – more expensive