Drive to 12 Apostles from Melbourne (2/2)
The Great Ocean Road (“GOR”), near to Melbourne City, is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives. The route starts from the surf capital Torquay to the famous 12 Apostles, and ends at historic fishing village Port Fairy. This post continues from the previous post, ‘Great Ocean Road Self-Drive Itinerary, to recount our drive to 12 Apostles from Melbourne.
The previous post describes our first day of our GOR journey: Weribbee Park & Mansion, Geelong, Mait’s rest and our accommodation at Princetown. There’s also useful information on our missed stops: Anglesea and Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Kennett River, Apollo Bay, Cape Otway, Lavers Hill, and Melba Gully.
So after a night at Pebble Point (Princetown), we drove on to visit the famous 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge/Arch which I will mention in this post. We then went to Warrnambool, which I will talk more in my next post! :)
▒ DAY 2: Drive to 12 Apostles from Melbourne ▒
Gibson Steps ➜ 12 Apostles ➜ Loch Ard Gorge ➜ London Bridge/Arch
First of all, schedule Gibson Steps as one of your stops at GOR. The view was more spectacular than from the viewing platform of the 12 Apostles. Highly recommended!
At Gibson Steps, take 86 steps down from the clifftop to the wild beach below and be dwarfed by the 70m high vertical cliffline. The staircase is quite steep and it got slippery from the rain while we were there. Hence, it is not suitable for strollers, wheelchairs or visitors with limited mobility. If you are unable to climb down, worry not, for there is a designated viewing area that is about 20 metres from the Gibson Steps carpark.
The climb down and up the 86 steps might be tiring but totally worth it! This is as close as you will get to the rock stacks. We walked along the beach and saw the two majestic stacks up close! However they are Gog and MaGog and not considered part of the 12 Apostles. Nevertheless, it was a breathtaking sight.
Take caution as you walk along the beach, especially with young children. This is because the sea conditions can change dramatically in a short time period. Waves can get unexpectedly large to overwhelm the young children and drag them into the sea. Adults should take caution too.
Great Ocean Road is 5km west of Princetown. So if you are coming from Melbourne, you will pass by this area before the 12 Apostles Visitor Facility. Or if you are coming from the other way, it’s a 2 minutes drive from the 12 Apostles. Gibson Steps’s entrance is not very visible, so be sure to drive slow and look out for it. You can google map for ‘Gibson Steps’ or use the official GPS coordinates (Lat: -38.6684063623781 Lng: 143.110549449921).
You can either park at Gibson Steps car park (50m return) or at the 12 Apostles car park (2km return). However, the Great Ocean Walk from the 12 Apostles car park is not advised for prams, wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles is situated along The Shipwreck Coast, which runs from Cape Otway to Port Fairy. According to Wikipedia, there’s an approximate 638 known shipwrecks along this stormy coast, for example, the shipwreck Fiji at Moonlight Head. This coastline is accessible via the GOR and also dotted with information plagues overlooking the cliffs where the shipwrecks occurred.
Sharper resolution of Shipwreck Coast map. Can you spot the 10 featured shipwrecks?
After Gibson Steps, we arrived at the most famous section of the Great Ocean Road — the The Twelve Apostles. The spectacular limestone formations of The Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge and many others along the coastline are eroded and carved out by fierce waves of the southern ocean. However, also because of erosion, one of the original 9 stacks of The Twelve Apostles had collapsed, leaving the rest susceptible to disappearance too.
Ways to Enjoy The Twelve Apostles
From A$290, the two of you can hop on to a 15 minutes helicopter ride that gives you a bird’s eye view of The Twelve Apostles and London Bridge.
Trails and Lookouts
- Port Campbell Discovery Walk (3.8km return, 1.5 hrs) offers unobstructed viewing to Sentinel Rock and The Twelve Apostles. You have to drive about 20 minutes from The Twelve Apostles visitor facility towards Port Campbell for this trail.
- Great Ocean Walk seems interesting. Might try it if we are back at GOR again! :)
Around the Visitor Facility, we were able to admire The Twelve Apostles on a cliff top viewing area and take photos with them in the background. Dusk and dawn are the best times to visit, as there are fewer visitors around and a opportunity to spot penguins (about 15 to 20 minutes after sunset).
To be here at dusk and dawn without driving too much in the dark, stay near at Port Campbell or Princetown. We stayed at Pebble Point at Princetown. :) Oh and bring thicker or warmer clothing! It can get quite chilly at GOR – especially when it rains.
Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge got its name from the shipwreck of Loch Ard. On 1 June 1878, the clipper ship ran into a rocky reef at the base of Mutton Bird Island, near Port Campbell. Only 2 out of the 54 onboard survived: an apprentice, Tom Pearce and a young woman passenger, Eva Carmichael, who lost all of her family in the tragedy. If you want to know more about this shipwreck, visit Flagstaff Hill Museum at Warrnambool.
There are three trails ranging from 200m to 3km for you to discover the area’s offshore stacks, blowholes, razorback and island arch.
- Geology walk: 900m loop trail on a level crushed rock and bitumen surface, which includes The Razorback and Island Arch. (~40 mins)
- The Wreck of the Loch Ard: An easy walk of 1.4km return on bitumen and crushed rock brings you near to Loch Ard shipwreck’s cemetery. (~50 mins)
- Living on the edge: With inclines on bitumen and crushed rock, this is still an easy walk of 3.2 km return. It encompasses the Muttonbird Island viewing platform and views of the majestic Blowhole, Thunder Cave and Broken Head. At Muttonbird Island lookout, there are steps down to the lower viewing platform. (~90 mins)
FYI: Bitumen – a black viscous mixture of hydrocarbons obtained naturally or as a residue from petroleum distillation. It is used for road surfacing and roofing.
Image: Tina Barker’s Flickr: Map taken at the main carpark.
We parked at the main carpark and only walked around the trail of the Loch Ard Wreck and went down the steps because the tide was low. There are two other car parks around ‘Living the Edge’ trail. While on this trail from September to May, you can spot thousands of mutton birds flying to the nearby Muttonbird Island at sunset.
London Bridge / Arch
London bridge is falling down, falling down… It’s falling down, but it’s no longer called the London Bridge but the London Arch. This is a natural arch formed by erosion at the Port Campbell National Park. It remained a double-span natural bridge until 1990 when the arch closer to the shoreline collapsed, leaving two tourists stranded on the outer part. A helicopter rescued them and no lives were lost. Before the collapse, visitors were able to walk across the bridge from the mainland.
London Bridge has upper western (150m return) and lower eastern (300m return) viewing platforms. This site is also one of two places in the National Park to observe little penguins returning to shore at dusk. The bird population of 80 to 100 is significantly smaller than at the 12 Apostles but the viewing platforms are closer to the birds.
After looking at so many rock formations, we had enough. But if you are interested to look at more, you can go to The Grotto (3km East of Peterborough), Bay of Martyrs and Bay of Islands.
After London Arch, we drove straight to Warrnambool, contemplating the lessons we learned from nature: “With time, even the hardest stone will come crumbling down. Nothing is impossible, persistence is key.
- Continue Reading ▸▸▸ Rounding Up GOR: Warrnambool and Port Fairy
- For other useful travel tips of Australia, look at the overview of our Australia itinerary. :) Have fun in Aussie!
Do you have other questions or recommendations for our drive to the 12 Apostles from Melbourne? Ask us below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram.
Related Posts: Review: Pebble Point (Great Ocean Road) Great Ocean Road Self Drive Itinerary (1/2) Car Rental in Melbourne
Useful links: www.visitvictoria.com/Information/Route-planner visit12apostles.com.au/trails-and-lookouts
Travels During October 2013 | Updated in 18 July 2016
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