Ultimate Guide to the 12 Apostles

The Ultimate Travel Guide to the 12 Apostles in Australia (2023)

Everything you need to know about the Twelve Apostles

A trip to the 12 Apostles is an essential part of any Australian tour. These magnificent stacks of limestone emerge from the depths of the ocean and tower hundreds of feet over everything around them. It’s Australia's third most famous natural site, one of Victoria's most significant tourist attractions, and one of the world's most stunning natural formations.

Over 2 million visitors make their way to the Great Ocean Road every year to witness their splendour and brilliance. There is no better way to experience the true grandeur of these mammoth-sized formations than by helicopter. Fly close over the twelve apostles, and circle them as you take in their natural beauty against a sunset or sunrise. Then continue your helicopter tour to the myriad of other gorgeous locations surrounding the Apostles. It's one of the most thrilling and exciting adventures Australia has to offer from the sky. 

Here's the ultimate travel guide to Australia's 12 apostles for international and local tourists.

The guide includes the following information:

  1. The history of the 12 Apostles
  2. Fun facts about the 12 Apostles
  3. Things to do near the 12 Apostles
  4. Places to visit near the 12 apostles
  5. Places to eat near 12 Apostles
  6. Places to stay near 12 Apostles
  7. How to travel from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles
  8. Frequently Asked Questions about the 12 Apostles

1. The history of the 12 Apostles - What are the 12 Apostles in Melbourne?

Australia's 12 Apostles is a collection of gigantic limestone sea stacks arising and soaring skyward over 45 m from the sea. Their formation dates back to several millions of years ago when billions of small marine skeletons, over time, accumulated on the ocean floor, forming massive limestone units. As the ocean began to retreat, these formations were exposed above sea level.

The wild Southern Ocean beat mercilessly against these formations day after day for centuries, slowly eroding the soft limestone to form caves in these formations, which eventually became arches. With further erosion over time, the arches collapsed, leaving magnificent rock islands towering over 150 feet skyward – just off the shore. 

2. Fun Facts about the 12 Apostles and Great Ocean Road

Planning a trip to the 12 Apostles? Here are some interesting facts to know before your trip.

  • Before the 1960s, the 12 Apostles were called the Sow and Piglets (Mutton Bird Island being the sow and the limestone stacks dotting the coast (including the twelve Apostles) being the piglets).

  • The formations were renamed as the twelve Apostles to attract visitors – a marketing strategy that now successfully attracts over two million visitors yearly.

  • Although called the 12 Apostles, there were never 12 stacks that made up the twelve. However, there are 30 stacks along the coastline. Not all of these stacks are visible together from the various viewing areas.

3. Things to do near the Twelve Apostles - Helicopter Rides, Walking Tours and much more...

Depending on where you are staying, a road trip to the 12 Apostles by car can take over 4 hours one-way from Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road offers some spectacular views, but be prepared to add a couple more hours to your journey if you do decide to drive along the Great Ocean Road..

You can experience a three-day self-drive touring route from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles. Visit all the popular locations along the great ocean road, including Torquay, Apollo Bay and Aireys Inlet. The three-day self-drive tour ends at the historic fishing village of Port Fairy.

There are several walking tours arranged for the more adventurous tourists. If you are prepared to walk for seven or eight hours a day, you will love the scenic routes these walking tours include.

Then there are full-day (7 am to 9 pm) 12 Apostles group tours that offer stunning sea views and breath-taking natural monuments. These tours include stopovers at scenic locations along the Great Ocean Road, including the Memorial Arch, the Shipwreck Coast, Loch Ard Gorge, and Sentinel Rock. Plus, there is a lot of wildlife viewing along the way.

A twelve apostles helicopter tour is one of the most popular tours among the 2 million tourists that visit the iconic attraction. A 12 Apostles flight offers the most incredibly breath-taking views and is the quickest way to travel from Melbourne to the twelve apostles. You will fly over the landmark in a private helicopter, getting a Birdseye view of the spectacular stacks along Victoria's rugged coastline, London Bridge, Shipwreck Coast with over 600 shipwrecks, and more.

4. Places to visit near 12 Apostles and the Great Ocean Road

Wondering what to do in 12 Apostles? Make the best of your trip to the 12 Apostles – visit other spectacular locations just a stone's throw away.

The Grotto

A short but scenic walk just off the Great Ocean Road brings you to The Grotto - another unique rock formation. The Grotto seems to be a magical combination of a blowhole, archway, and cave. This peaceful, calm sinkhole formation offers breathtaking sea views from a low-lying area through a natural window.

London Bridge

London Bridge used to be a double-spanning bridge that connected to the mainland. The bridge collapsed in 1990, but the area still offers spectacular views of the surrounding Bay of Islands.

Gibson Steps

Climb down the 86 Gibson Steps to get to the beach, where you can walk along the Gog and Magog rock stacks (not a part of the 12 Apostles). Take a stroll along the beach, allowing your feet to gently sink into the soft sand and time stand stills as you take in the magnificence of these stunning structures.

Rock Formations

Walk close to The Sentinel - a magnificent rock standing guard over the eastern gateway to the Great Ocean Road.

Thunder Cave, Razorback, and Bakers Oven Rock are other impressive rock formations along the stretch of the coast in Port Campbell National Park.

Shipwreck Coast

The entire shipwreck Coast is comprised of over 600 shipwrecks; the most famous shipwreck is Loch Ard which sunk in 1878. Of its 54 passengers, only two survived – a cabin boy Tom Pearce, and a passenger Eva Carmichael. The pair washed up on the beach, now called Loch Ard Gorge, in honour of the fallen vessel.

5. Places to eat near 12 Apostles and Port Campbell National Park

The closest town to the Twelve Apostles is Port Campbell. Here you will find plenty of shops, cafes, and hotels. If you are making a day trip, there are several places to catch a bite. Here's a look at a couple of excellent places to stop for a bite and rest.

  • Craypot Bistro is one of the better places to eat in Port Campbell and offers contemporary Australian food. It also has a lovely pub and bar.

  • Waves Café, Bar, and Restaurant is just a 10 to 12-minute drive from the 12 Apostles and offers fantastic food with an Asian influence. While they are known for their seafood, you can order anything from pork to pasta and even vegetarian dishes.

  • Barrel House Bar and Shop is a beachside cocktail and whiskey bar that serves locally distilled Timboon Whisky and Spirits.

6. Places to stay near 12 Apostles

From motels to hotels and apartments to hostels – Port Campbell offers several types of accommodations.

Some recommendations include:

12 Apostles Cottages

12 Apostles Cottages is just five minutes from the 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road, offering gorgeous views of the Gellibrand river, Southern Ocean, and the surrounding farmland. It is just a seven-minute drive from the Twelve Apostle Visitor Centre. The apartments feature balconies, kitchenettes, iPod docks, and more.

Twelve Apostles Motel & Country Retreat

Twelve Apostles Motel & Country Retreat is three kilometres from the 12 Apostles. Once a dairy farm, it has now been transformed into a unique Australian retreat.

Sow & Piglets Guest House

Sow & Piglets Guest House offers relaxing lodging in a boutique guest house. But this is more than a guest house, it is also a working brew pub and microbrewery. It's the perfect place to stay when you want to enjoy the country's coastline, hinterland, and food.

7. How to travel from Melbourne to 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles is a three-hour drive from Melbourne. You have several choices if you are wondering how to get to 12 Apostles from Melbourne.

Drive by Car

You can embark on the scenic Great Ocean Road drive, a 4.5-hour drive from Melbourne to the Apostles.

Public Transport

You can also take a train which is the cheapest way to get there. There is a direct train from Southern Cross to Warrnambool every day of the week, four times a day. The journey lasts about 3.5 hours.

There are no direct buses from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles. You can get a bus from Southern Cross Coach Terminal to Warrnambool with transfers, and the journey takes approximately 5.5 hours.

12 Apostles Helicopter Ride

One of the most spectacular ways to get to 12 Apostles from Melbourne is by booking a private helicopter tour. The 12 apostle Melbourne helicopter ride gets you to your destination in just over an hour (as opposed to almost five hours by car).

Rotor One offers private helicopter tours from Melbourne, allowing you to take in some of Victoria's most spectacular views of the Shipwreck Coast. You get the best views of the 12 Apostles as you head for a private landing at the 12 Apostles Helipad. The six-to-eight-hour experience starts with a one-hour-15-minute private flight for four (no group sharing), up to two hours at the 12 Apostles, and a two-hour winery stopover for lunch.

8. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Twelve Apostles

Where are the 12 Apostles located?

The 12 Apostles are located in Victoria, along the Australian National Heritage 240-kilometre Great Ocean Road, and just off the shore of Port Campbell National Park.

How far are the 12 Apostles from Melbourne? 

The 12 Apostles are located 275 kilometres west of Melbourne – approximately a four-and-half-hour drive along the Great Ocean Road. 

What is the best time to go 12 Apostles? 

Any time of day is magical, however if you happen to be staying overnight, then sunrises and sunsets are amazing. The yellow rocks turn splendid shades of red and orange.

How many of the 12 Apostles are left?

Today there are seven of the original Apostles left.

Which are the best viewpoints: It's possible to see all the Apostles together from various viewing points along the coast between Princetown and Warrnambool. However, the 12 Apostle Lookout provides the best views over the Twelve Apostles as there is a massive lookout deck. Six Apostles are visible in the classic view, while the seventh is several meters from the corner of the main viewing area.

The 12 Apostles Kiosk is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. All lookouts and walkways are open from dawn to dusk 365 days a year.

So there you have it – your guide to exploring Australia’s marvellous 12 Apostles – what they are and why they are an important part of Australian heritage.

There’s no doubt that no trip to Victoria is complete without making a trip to the 12 Apostles – their magnificence is astounding, to say the least. There are several ways to get there, but nothing quite as awe-inspiring, magnificent, adventurous, and spectacular as a private helicopter ride.

Planning to book a private helicopter ride from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles? Click here for more information.

12 Apostles Helicopter Ride from Melbourne

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About The Author

Edward Taylor - Owner & Commercial Pilot at Rotor One

Edward Taylor is a Helicopter Pilot based in Melbourne, Australia. He holds a Commercial Pilot's License (CPL-H) from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and is the Owner and a Commercial Pilot at Rotor One (Australia). Edward is a local expert in helicopter tours across Australia and has had the pleasure of flying helicopters in England, Italy, Switzerland, the USA and Israel. Edward also loves flying with his Golden Retriever, Leo.

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