The 12 Apostles is one of those attractions that somehow finds a way to be more stunning in person than in pictures. And, I've got to say, it's pretty stunning in pictures. It is no wonder the 12 Apostles are the star of the show on the Great Ocean Road.
When planning your trip to the 12 Apostles be sure to research thoroughly and know what you are getting into. Because it is so popular it is unfortunately, always crowded. But if you plan accordingly you can still have a fantastic time at this gorgeous site.
What Exactly Are The 12 Apostles
The short answer: Rocks. The longer version: Enormous limestone structures rising out of the Southern Ocean, standing 45 meters high in some places and pretty ancient considering they were formed over 20 million years ago. Although they are still named the 12 Apostles only eight rock pillars remain. Over the years, the rest have given into the brutal wind and waves. Eroding away and chipping into it enough to finally fall into the ocean.
How To Get To The 12 Apostles
The most popular way to visit the 12 Apostles is by leaving from Melbourne. The drive there is incredibly scenic but also long, taking between 4-5 hours. The return trip to Melbourne can be made in around 3.5-hours via the inland route along the Princes Highway.
Read on: Full Melbourne Travel Guide
It is possible to see the great structures all in one day, and in fact, many tours are available to book from Melbourne. But, I highly recommend taking more than one afternoon to drive the road. There is so much more to see in this area than just the 12 Apostles. The drive, and 12 Apostles attraction, are apart of a larger tourist route called the ‘Great Ocean Road’ which has been called one of the most beautiful drives in the world.
12 Apostles Admission Price
Completely free! Hard to believe, I know. Even the visitor center’s large parking lot is free to use. It really is incredible to see something like this without paying an admission price.
Best Time of Year to Visit
The 12 Apostles gets more and more popular every year, in part thanks to Instagram, and in part because it is only a matter of time before more pillars fall into the ocean. This means, unfortunately, it's hard to pinpoint a low season, or even a low time of day, to truly have the view to yourself. Your best shot is waking up extremely early and arriving before sunrise. This is well before the tour buses arrive and the crowds descend. But many other travelers have this idea as well, so don’t think you will be completely alone.
Alternatively, I suggest visiting during sunset (which is what we did). The views are gorgeous as the sun lights up the sky in various shades of orange and red. I also suggest stopping in Port Campbell—the closest town—and grabbing a takeout pizza (or other food) well before sunset. As the sun goes down you can enjoy your meal while the sky lights up. Not only is it a great way to see the site, but also practical. Port Campbell is a tiny town, as are most on the Great Ocean Road. Once the sun sets almost all of the restaurants, gas stations, and grocers in town close for the day. Don’t get stranded without food!
Best Viewpoint At 12 Apostles
The 12 Apostles park is extremely large and there are various viewpoints to enjoy the sights. I suggest getting there early and finding parking across the street. The walk just out to the ocean has various boards that detail the ecology of the area as well as how the pillars were made. Be sure to take your time at all of them, they are incredibly interesting.
My favorite viewpoint can be seen on the google satelitte image provided. The Castle Rock star is, in my opinion, the optimum place to view the sun while it sets behind the 12 Apostles.
It is also one of the larger viewpoints with lower fences and wider walkways making it easier to carve out your own space to relax, enjoy, and take some pictures.
Other Ways to See The 12 Apostles
If you want to go all out there are various other ways to see the 12 Apostles. You could choose to go big, taking a scenic helicopter flight. Although it will cost major money it is an unforgettable experience and if you’re going to do it anywhere, the 12 Apostles are truly beautiful and unique to see from a bird's-eye view.
On the complete other end of the spectrum, you could hike your way along the coast to the 12 Apostles. Leaving from Princetown, a 7 km (4.3 miles) trail takes you along boardwalk, gravel, and steps. You will see stunning coastal sights the entire way and even have a chance to spot kangaroos and various exotic birds.
Looking for even more of a challenge? There is also a longer walk for extreme adventures. The four day Apostles Lodge Walk is an all-inclusive trip that includes tour guides, great food, and help carrying your things. You’ll even get some soothing foot baths after all that walking at the end of each day. Find out more here.
Best Hotels Near 12 Apostles
The closest town is Port Campbell, a small coastal town in Victoria, Australia. I call it small, and it definitely is with a population of only 478 people. But it is known as one of the larger towns on the Great Ocean Road. It is west of the Twelve Apostles and if you choose to spend multiple days on the road I suggest looking for a hotel here.
We stayed at Sea Foam Villas in Port Campbell. It was adequate, especially for the price. Most hotels in Port Campbell come with a full kitchen—a great feature if you are trying to cut costs.
Photo Ideas 12 Apostles
Have I mentioned that it’s going to be crowded? Grabbing a quality picture here is a bit hard. The fences are purposely built to be a little taller to discourage risk takers on walking out to the crumbling edges for the best photo. I shouldn’t have to say it, but, a good Instagram photo is not worth your life. If there are signs to stay on a trail, they are there for a reason.
Anyway, even though it is a little harder to ‘nail’ the perfect shot here you can do something similar to what we did at the 12 Apostles. Near the Castle Rock lookout is an alcove with a bench and a lower fence. We used this bench to frame the shot. I can’t even explain to you how crowded it was but no one was sitting on the bench. We didn’t even have to ask anyone to move so we could get a ‘clear’ shot. In fact, once we got this shot, many others lined up behind us to use the same framing.
Other Attractions Near The 12 Apostles
I keep repeating myself, but only because the area around the 12 Apostles, known as the Great Ocean Drive is truly stunning. Take self-guided walks at Loch Ard Gorge, which tells the story of shipwrecks, ancient geology, and coastal ecology. The area is named after Victoria’s most famous shipwreck, Loch Ard, smashed against Muttonbird Island in 1878 leaving only two young survivors. Stop at the Grotto, where you can see rainbows appear as waves splash and ripple the sunshine. Or climb down the 86 stairs that hug a cliff, known as Gibson Steps, and walk the beach right next to the 70-metre (230-foot) limestone cliffs. And this is only the start.
Planning a trip to Australia in general, can be overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion on this beautiful location and you may be frozen and unable to plan anything. Rest assured that no matter what you choose to do in Australia or where you choose to stay in Australia you're going to have a beautiful time.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing an Australian travel guide along with you. Here are some of the travel guides I used during my trip...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).