The 12 Apostles is one of Australia’s most well known and popular tourist attractions – aside from the harbour bridge and Uluru. The coastline stretches some 30 km and is incredibly stunning, rugged and dramatic.
I happen to live about 2 hours away from Port Campbell and I thought it was high time that I take a road trip to the 12 Apostles and witness one of Australia’s natural wonders. It’s strange how I haven’t been down this way since I was around 14 on a school excursion and even though it’s an easy drive down I have never put it on priority. Kind of like how you take something for granted because it’s always there, in your own ‘backyard’ and you know that you can go visit anytime you like.
So mid afternoon on a Sunday I jumped in my car and headed inland to get there in around 2 hours from my base in Geelong.
If you are a visitor to the region, Geelong is the ideal base to explore the Great Ocean Road and the surrounding areas. Many tourist places are just a short drive away.
How to get to the 12 Apostles
The ideal way to get to the 12 apostles is to drive there. If you are an overseas visitor then hiring a car is your best option (the only option I would consider). The next best way to see the 12 Apostles is to go with an organised tour group or there is the option of public transport. There is a coach service that travels from Geelong to Port Campbell and will take roughly around four and a half hours. The train (V-line) travels to Warrnambool three times a day and then you will need to bus it to Port Campbell.
When I drove down on a Sunday afternoon I chose the inland route going via Birregurra and Colac. This is a quiet road that will have you arriving at Port Campbell in around a little over two hours. The other route along the coast is very scenic and will take you about three and a half hours from Geelong. If you have the luxury of time then hit the coastal road and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Great Ocean Road along the way. There are also a number of beach towns to stop, have a coffee and lunch along the way such as Lorne and Apollo Bay.
If you have never driven down the Great Ocean Road then taking the coastal route is a must.
When to visit:
The 12 Apostles can be visited all year round and the Port Campbell national park is completely free of charge. I visited the 12 apostles and the surrounding areas during the day and planned on checking it out again at sunset. Due to daylight savings time I chose to have an early dinner at Port Campbell and then drove back to the 12 Apostles viewing deck at around 6.45 p.m to await the sunset. The sunset across the 12 Apostles is one of the most incredibly stunning sunsets I have ever witnessed. Try as you might, but the camera simply cannot capture what you are seeing in real life. The 12 Apostles just bask in the beautiful pink and orange hues that glows over the horizon. As the sun drops into the water and disappears, it suddenly gives it’s last hurrah, with stunning shards of light arising from the water. It’s truly a majestic sight to witness.
The 12 Apostles are accessed from a car park and visitor centre located across the highway. There is a tunnel that takes you under the road and to the viewing platforms.
The view from the platform at the 12 Apostles.
If you would like to take a walk along the beach, there are a set of steps that descend down the side of the cliff called Gibson’s Steps. There are 86 steps carved into the cliff face and are quite narrow. It’s well worth taking the 15 minute walk to the steps from the visitor centre or alternatively you can drive 2 minutes down the road to the Gibson’s steps car park. There aren’t as many tourists in this area, giving it a more peaceful feel, as you get an up close perspective of how high the 70 metre cliffs are.
Throughout the Port Campbell National Park are various walking trails and designated viewing areas. The Razorback, Loch Ard Gorge and the island archway are a short drive away and can be accessed by other car parks. You should allow a good couple of hours to explore this area, as there are incredible rock stacks, blowholes and caves.
The Razorback is named for it’s sharp and bumpy edges along it’s back and are caused by windspray, causing small parts of the rock to harden. The smooth under walls just above sea level occur through wave activity which occurs every 14 seconds.
This is the site of the island archway, which actually collapsed in 2009. What remains are two rock pillars that have been officially named “Tom” and “Eva” after the two teenage survivors of the shipwreck of 1878. The island arches are formed when the sea stacks become eroded through at a weak point. Eventually the arches themselves collapse and form sea stacks similar to the 12 Apostles.
The shipwreck graveyard dedicated to those who lost their lives on the ship “Loch Ard”. The ship came to grief in treacherous seas, crashing against the cliffs and subsequently sinking into a watery grave in 1878. Miraculously two people survived and were rescued – 17 year old Eva Carmichael and 15 year old crew member Tom Pearce. Tom made it to the shore and then heard Eva’s cries for help, he went back to rescue her and was hailed a hero.
There are many other areas to explore and this is but a little sample of what you can see along this amazing coast line. If you have never been or haven’t been for a long time then get yourself into a car and take a road trip to the 12 Apostles.
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