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Great Ocean Road – 12 Apostles in a Day

Cruising the Great Ocean Road is a rite of passage for many Aussies and an experience you won’t want to miss if you plan on visiting Victoria. I had the privilege of growing up in this area and still grab any opportunity to cruise the Great Ocean Road – 12 Apostles in a day is very do-able and wicked break from the monotony of some Australia’s inland expanses.

My mother was one of the first sewers for Quicksilver in Torquay. Just off the Great Ocean Road is where the now global brand was jammed into a dumpy house in a seaside surf town that not too many people were interested in. Both Quicksilver and Ripcurl where born here and the part of the coast that the Great Ocean Road covers has never lost it’s surf culture allure. The world surfing tour comes to the area every year for the Ripcurl Pro, which is still held at Bells Beach – an isolated piece of coastline off a dirt road. You’ll drive past it on the Great Ocean Road in your bid to get to the 12 Apostles in a day… blink and you’ll miss it.

Perhaps this is an attempt to convince you to stretch the trip, yes the 12 Apostles in a day is possible, but there is lots to see if you fancy indulging a bit. A self-drive is definitely the way to go, tours from Melbourne are numerous and frequent but having the freedom to break up the trip is what this experience is all about in my opinion.

Great Ocean Road – Day Trip from Melbourne

Distance, Round Trip: 500km | 7/8 Hours Drive Time (Avoid the Bolte Bridge in Melbourne to avoid the toll)

Cruising the Great Ocean Road is one of the iconic Aussie drives on offer. Before we get into it, if you’ve not yet driven on Australian roads it might pay to read this post on Driving In Australia For the First Time. Allowing for stops this is at least 5 hours one-way to the 12 Apostles, so I’d be getting up early. You want to miss the Melbourne peak hour traffic and after all this is the great ocean road… there is so much more to see other than just your destination. Have a peak at the map here to get your bearings.

You’ll be heading south out of Melbourne which will bypass the city centre of Geelong after about 40/50 minutes and continue towards Anglesea where you’ll pick up the Great Ocean Road. This is where it gets good. Slow winding single lane road following the contours of the land mass. Breathtaking cliff top views of the rugged Bass Strait coastline are a constant so concentrate! There’ll be lots of photo opportunities along the way at scenic lay-bys.

Image Left cafuego | Right  Yasser Alghofily

If you love design and architecture just past Fairhaven on the right (not in the ocean😕), look up and you’ll see the Mushroom House, or at least that’s what we called it when I was a kid. If you’ve got a spare $600 you could spend the night.

Lorne & Apollo Bay

We are making our way further down the winding coastal road to Lorne, heading off early will enable you to indulge in a descent lunch as you’ll be spoilt for choice regardless of what you fancy here. Lorne is personal favourite, a very chilled little metro-beachside town. There’s the popular Erskine Falls in behind Lorne but you won’t be checking it out if you want to make the 12 Apostles and back to Melbourne in a day.

Lorne & Fairhaven images christian haugen

Driving POV image amanderson2 | Below image cafuego

Beyond Lorne you will enjoy passing through the lush Otway Ranges before reaching Apollo Bay where the landscape opens up a bit. Yet another opportunity for something to eat if you are looking for lunch and the last stop by the ocean until you reach the 12 Apostles.

12 Apostles

Apollo Bay is where you’ll head back inland for a bit as you need to skirt around the Great Otway National Park, which is in itself worth a look but we don’t have time… schedule! Onward to the 12 Apostles and the Port Campbell National Park. After 90 minutes you’ll be back on the coast… you have arrived!

The 12 Apostles are limestone stacks that have been eroded by the Southern Ocean over millions of years. There’s only 8 still standing at last count, they have been dropping off at a fairly alarming rate. The one that really stole the lime light (now that was good👏), was known as London Bridge. It collapsed in spectacular fashion and left 2 tourists stranded in 1990… but hey, they got a free chopper ride out of it. The last stack to go was in 2005. Don’t fret there are more being formed… just pop back in a few million years. There is also more to the area than the 12 Apostles, the 2 sisters (used to be a 3 piece band), along with Loch Ard Gorge are equally as impressive.

12 Apostle Images by Travellers travel photobook

Just 5 km’s after you hit the coast you’ll come across the Twelve Apostles Visitor Facility which is open everyday from 9-5pm. From here it’s an easy 5min walk under the road to the nearest platforms, there’s 3 separate areas along the cliff top (Entry is Free). Around 1km back back down the road, you can head down “Gibson Steps” to the beach, if the tide is on your side. Now despite being on the east coast you will get some pretty special views at sunset (not so great at sunrise). I’ve heard people complain about the setting sun ruining their photos… a bit odd. If you don’t like the arty stuff, keep driving a further 2km’s down the road to the Loch Ard Gorge turn off – the sun will be over your shoulder.

Port Campbell and Return Journey to Melbourne

I would suggest heading 12 km’s up the road to Port Campbell after the 12 Apostles for the return journey – around a 3 hour drive back to Melbourne via the inland route. You may choose to drive back the same way but I’m not sure what the point would be, plus you’ll have some food and fuel options. If you’ve read this far I’m guessing you need to get back in a day and going back via the Great Ocean Road in the evening will take a lot longer. Now if you get up super early you might be able to cram in a visit to Cape Otway, the 2 day version is coming soon so I’ll cover Bells Beach, the Otways, Erskine Falls and Warrnambool in detail then… stay tuned and drive safe!

Port Campbell images by martin7d2

*If you fancy some inside tips on more iconic Australian Drives perhaps try our post on Cairns to Port Douglas, maybe a 2 Day Dash to Kakadu or if you’re really committed read about our Best Way to Drive From Adelaide to Uluru in 3 days.

Map of Great Ocean Road - 12 Apostles in a Day


Whilst many of the images are our own we did get some help from the some talented individuals, we like to give credit when it’s due! If you click their links under the images you will see some fantastic portfolios of passionate travellers and photographers.
All images were obtains under the Creative Commons Licensing Agreements


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