The Twelve Apostles are nature’s gift to Victoria, Australia. Nothing remotely religious about this special tourist attraction, the Twelve Apostles is actually a collection of limestone stacks located just off the shore of Port Campbell National Park, and reached via the Great Ocean Road. They are 275 kilometres/170 miles away from Melbourne, and can certainly be visited on a self-drive, on your Australia vacation.
These magnificent rock stacks rise up majestically from the Southern Ocean on Victoria‘s dramatic coastline, and were created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs and harsh weather conditions of the Southern Ocean, beginning millions of years ago. The erosion of the soft limestone formed caves in the cliffs which then became arches and which, in turn, collapsed, leaving rock stacks up to 50 metres/160 feet high. They are protected by the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park, which runs along 17 kilometres/ 11 miles of stunningly beautiful coastline.
Are There Actually Twelve?
The site was originally known as the Sow and Piglets until 1922 (Muttonbird Island near the Loch Ard Gorge was the Sow, and the smaller rock stacks were the Piglets). Not surprisingly, it was renamed The Twelve Apostles for tourism purposes, despite it only ever having nine stacks. Currently there are eight apostles left to view. The ninth of the stacks collapsed dramatically in 2005. The stacks are susceptible to further erosion from the waves.
The rate of erosion at the base of the limestone pillars is approximately 2 centimetres/ 0.8 inches a year. However, due to wave action eroding the cliff face, existing headlands are expected to become new limestone stacks in the future.
When and How to View the Twelve Apostles
While anytime of the day provides a great spectacle, sunrise and sunset are particularly impressive for the blazing hues created. They actually change colour from a dark shade to a brilliant sandy yellow under a full sun.
A visit to the Twelve Apostles begins at the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre. A tunnel takes you under the Great Ocean Road to an extensive boardwalk. The main designated viewing area for the Twelve Apostles is a viewing platform which you take the stairs to from the boardwalk. The distance from the parking lot to the viewing area is approximately 280 metres/300 yards. Another method of viewing them is by boat from nearby Port Campbell or Princetown.
Other Interesting Facts About the Twelve Apostles
Many animals can be seen both above and below the water including seabirds, seals, lobsters, reef fish, and sea spiders. Marine mammals such as whales are also known to visit the area. After dark or in the early morning, you may see Little Penguins feed in the park and nest in caves below the Twelve Apostles. For birdwatchers, the park is a great way to see large seabirds such as gulls and albatross.
The park has some of the most unique underwater scenery in the world, making it a must for diving and snorkeling.
The cliffs next to the Twelve Apostles have sunk more than 80 ships over time. Most were transporting workers to the Victorian gold fields and never made it past Shipwreck Coast, as it is called.
So, if in Melbourne and wanting to experience something unusual, do consider taking a trip to this exceptional and natural phenomenon.
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