On the south coast of Victoria is one of the most epic views on offer in all of Australia.
The Twelve Apostles is a series of limestone rock formations that have been carved by the rough seas of the Southern Ocean over thousands of years.
These formations are massive and sit where solid land once was. It gives you some insight into the power of coastal erosion over time.
But geology aside, this is an iconic sight that is synonymous with Australian tourism and an essential day trip to take from the city of Melbourne.
Where to get the best view of the Twelve Apostles
The sight is in an isolated part of the world and your journey will always start and finish in the car park on the northern side of the Great Ocean Rd.
From there you follow a walking trail that goes under the highway and snakes its way towards the coast.
From there you have a few options:
There are a series of viewing platforms linked by a boardwalk that sits atop the surrounding cliffs.
If you just follow the walkway there is a small loop that the path will follow that will take you to all of the best photo spots.
These are sealed pathways and suitable for strollers and wheelchairs.
Each of the platforms can get very crowded during the day with sunset being the busiest time.
If you can get out of bed early enough sunrise will give you the best chance of capturing a spectacular sky backdrop with plenty of room to move around.
But it will be cold and windy! So make sure you dress for the occasion.
If you are keen to head off the sealed pathway then there are a few walking trails that will take you to a number of vantage points around the area.
The Great Ocean Walk
This trail follows the coastline and stretches across 243kms of land.
Unless you want to walk from Melbourne the only relevance of this is that there is a trail that follows the cliffs.
So you can walk as much or as little of it as you like.
The Gibson steps
This will take you down to the beach on the eastern side of the headland that holds the viewing platforms.
Here you can view two additional rock stacks that are not part of the Twelve Apostles, but equally impressive.
Especially from the ground level view on the beach looking back up.
There is a small car park right near the start of the steps but it is often full.
You can also reach the stairs by following The Great Ocean Walk which heads east from the Twelve Apostles car park for 1.1kms.
The beach can be a dangerous place when there are high tides and rough seas so always check conditions before venturing out onto the beach.
Helicopter Scenic Tour
If you have a bit of cash to burn and want the best possible view on offer then you can take to the skies and get the birds eye view.
You will be able to get up close to this epic stretch of coastline, and also fly well past the Twelve Apostles to view all of the extra rock formations in the area (there are bout 30 similar formations nearby).
Fun Facts and FAQ
How did the Twelve Apostles get their name?
This rock formation has no biblical significance. It was just a catchy name given to the site in the 1960s.
To further highlight the artistic license taken, there were actually only eight visible rock formations when named.
How old are the twelve apostles?
The formations have been shaped over the last 20 million years, and continue to change every day (by a few micro grams of rock).
The size of the stacks show just how far out, and how high the land mass has been in the past.
At least there is some way until the erosion gets as far as the highway!
How many Apostles are still standing?
Of the formations officially known as the Twelve Apostles, there are seven rock stacks still standing from the original eight.
However, if you look across the entire coastline in the region there are as many as thirty stacks of different sizes visible.
Where did the other Apostles go?
The eighth apostle disappeared into the surrounding waters back in 2005.
When the erosion to the base of the stack was no longer able to hold up the weight of the rock, the 50 meter high formation collapsed into the ocean.
Can I swim at the beach?
The beach is not patrolled by lifeguards, and the seas are notoriously rough.
It would be dangerous to do so and we do not recommend it.
What is the closest town to the 12 Apostles?
Just 15-20 minutes down the road is the town of Campbellfield.
This is just a small country town with a couple of restaurants, a pub, and a few small motels.
The Southern Ocean Motor Inn offers affordable rooms and some with water views with Port Campbell Beach just across the road.
From Campbellfield you can also go on the <name> loop taking. You can sample local cheeses, chocolate and whisky and is a nice way to spend a day if you wish to hang around.
How to get there
You have two options by road if coming from Melbourne.
The first is the famous Great Ocean Road. It is a stunning stretch of coastline, but also very windy.
It will take you 5-6 hours to reach the Twelve Apostles if taking this route and is a day trip in itself if you wish to take it slow.
If you suffer from motion sickness then you may be forced to take a bit longer. But it is worth toughing it out!
The inland route is much smoother, and will take you less than half the time. So it is possible to take the coastal route in the morning, and backtrack from the Twelve Apostles via the inland highway.
It would be a 10-12 hour round trip.
If you would prefer to just sit back and let someone else worry about the driving there are plenty of tour options that can take you out for the day.
You are at one of the most southern landmasses on the planet, and the next stop when you gaze towards the horizon is Antarctica.
So as you can imagine it can get cold no matter what time of year it is.
The coastline is battered by wind constantly, and the sea is almost always rough.
Other Nearby Landmarks
The coastline offers a long list of rock formations that are also worth visiting.
You can capture all these in a short space of time via the helicopter tours mentioned earlier.
By road you can have a very enjoyable day taking a leisurely drive along the coast stopping at each spot.
- Pudding Basin Rock
- Elephant Rock
- Muttonbird Island
- Thunder Cave
- Bakers Oven
- London Bridge
- The Grotto
If you have time you can also check out the 12 Apostles Gourmet Food Trail. But this will require a two day itinerary rather than a day trip.
It is a long day to do the full loop including the Great Ocean Rd in one go. But a manageable day trip nonetheless.
So if you have the time to spend an extra day around Campbellfield then I would recommend this option.
If you are short of time then the return trip via the inland highway could have you back in Melbourne again by mid afternoon.