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Perhaps the most iconic and memorable sight on Australia’s Great Ocean Road, the striated pinnacles of rock jutting out of the sea along the coast from Melbourne are a fitting testament to the natural beauty southern Australia has to offer. A roadtrip to 12 Apostles from Melbourne is a classic way to explore this area of coastline while on a tour to Australia.
Although only seven apostles can be seen today, a series of viewing platforms connected by wooden boardwalks wind their way around the cliff tops for the closest possible experience. Arrive as the sun sinks below the horizon and you’ll get not only phenomenal photographic opportunities, but also the chance to watch penguins returning from the waters after a day’s fishing to burrows beneath the main visitor lookout.
275 kilometers from Melbourne
|Best time to visit:||All-year round. The highest temperatures and almost guaranteed clear blue skies can be found in the summer months of December to February, but they also draw the biggest crowds. Spring (September – November) and autumn (March – May) are cooler and less crowded, while winter (June – August) are the quietest months but have the greatest risk of moody skies and rain.|
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The Great Ocean Road itself is on the Australian National Heritage List. There is an almost endless list of beaches to stop off at and enjoy the fresh air; Torquay and Lorne beaches are just two. Surfers should check out the waves on Bells Beach. Other attractions include the lighthouse at Split Point, the Carisbrook Creek pebble towers, and the waterfalls of Great Otway National Park.
A little way beyond the 12 Apostles check out the village of Port Campbell, and the rock formations in the vicinity known as London Bridge and The Grotto. Head inland on your return to Melbourne to explore Australia’s biggest volcanic plain.
The Melbourne to 12 Apostles roadtrip can easily be completed as a day trip. The 4-hour, 275 km journey is never short of mesmerizing seascapes as you follow the Great Ocean Road west.
Melbourne to Great Ocean Road
Leaving the suburbs of Melbourne head south-west around Port Phillip Bay towards the town of Geelong on the M1. Continue on to the coast at Torquay on the B100. After a total travelling time of around one hour and twenty minutes, this is where the spectacular Great Ocean Road begins.
Full of winding bends that hug the coast, much of the land the Great Ocean Road crosses is protected national park or wildlife reserve, giving you a sense of the flora and fauna of this corner of the Australian continent. The lighthouse at Split Point, where there’s a café for refreshments, offers grand views over the clifftop route the Great Ocean road takes. Two platforms at the end of a short walk offer the best views. It’s roughly 1.5 hours from Melbourne.
A man made attraction can be found at Carisbrook Creek, where thousands of ‘towers’ of pebbles piled on top of one another have been created by passing motorists to become a marvel of its own. Meanwhile Great Otway National Park, roughly 200 km from Melbourne, has some magnificent waterfalls.
Great Ocean Road to 12 Apostles
From Great Otway National Park, drive 52 km to Princetown. Just 6 km away from the 12 Apostles, this small coastal village is home to a new boardwalk for viewing birds and kangaroos that inhabit the salt flats there. It also connects the town with a lovely picnic area should you want a further break from driving.
You then reach the jewel in the crown of any Great Ocean Road’s one day tour – the 12 Apostles themselves. Sunrise and sunset provide the broadest spectrum of colors over the seven remaining apostles, shaped by the wind and waves over centuries. The 1.1 km Great Ocean Walk follows a route from the south side of the 12 Apostles Visitor Center to beach level, the only place where a further two low pinnacles of rock known as Gog and Magog are visible.
Continue a little further west along the Great Ocean Road and you’ll quickly reach the beautiful coastal town of Port Campbell. Head to the High Viewpoint for spectacular views over the town and the local river as it makes its way to the ocean. Nearby you’ll find the rock formations of London Bridge arch, Loch Ard Gorge with its azure blue waters and two beaches, and The Grotto.
12 Apostles to Melbourne
To return to Melbourne by an alternative route, take the meandering inland road. A shorter distance of just 240 km, it takes a little less time at around 3 hours, giving you more time at the 12 Apostles. But more than that, it gives you the opportunity to take in additional sights, such as Australia’s largest volcanic plain and the extinct volcano Mount Elephant, or even to extend your trip to undertake the 53 km long Ballarat Skipton Rail Trail walking route that passes through forest, rolling hills and historic goldfields. Who knows, you might find something glinting in the earth by your feet.
- Should you not wish to drive yourself, there are plenty of tour companies that offer tours to the 12 Apostles from Melbourne Easily arranged in the city, prices start at around USD 93*.
- You can also opt for a multi-day tour and visit the Grampians National Park in Adelaide along with the 12 Apostles.
- Whatever time of year you visit, dodge the crowds by arriving early or staying late when light conditions are also at the best for sublime photography.
- The kiosk that comprises the 12 Apostles Visitor Center is open from dawn to dusk, while the toilets, platforms and lookouts are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
- If you find yourself at the 12 Apostles at dusk await the parade of penguins that stroll across the beach from the waves for a night of safety in their burrows.
The 12 Apostles Melbourne roadtrip along the Great Ocean Road is a part of the Australian visitor experience as much as gazing out over Sydney harbor or cuddling a koala. Encompassing some of the finest ocean scenery the country has to offer, the 275 km route ends at the 12 Apostles — a panorama that simply takes the breath away.
*Prices quoted are as of June 2018.