The Upside Down Under
The Twelve Apostles


The Twelve Apostles is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park, by the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.

One of the most well-known highlights of the Great Ocean Road is The Twelve Apostles. The massive limestone structures that tower 45 metres (148 feet) above the tempestuous Southern Ocean, leaving its visitors awe-struck in wonder at their size and beauty. Behind the eight remaining stacks (several have fallen since their discovery) are majestic cliffs, around 70 metres (230 feet) high.

The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles

At first glance you will see seven rock stacks to the west of the main Twelve Apostles viewing platform with the rest hidden by headlands and obscured by other stacks. To the east at the southern viewing area are a further 2 rock stacks referred to in local vernacular as Gog and Magog. These two rock stacks are viewable from beach level 1.1 km (.7 miles) to the east of the Twelve Apostles.

The Twelve Apostles viewing platform
The Twelve Apostles from the viewing platform

The apostles were formed by erosion: The harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean gradually eroded the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs, which then became arches, which in turn collapsed; leaving rock stacks up to 45-50 metres (147-180 feet) high. Because of this erosion, there are fewer than ten remaining.

Even though the rocks are collectively known as the 12 Apostles and are not individually named after the biblical Apostles. Early charts refer to the 12 Apostles as the Sow and Piglets.  The Sow refers to Mutton Bird Island which is viewable from Loch Ard Gorge and the Piglets were the surrounding rock formations to the east. When Superintendent C.J. La Trobe passed through this area in 1846, his chart reflected this name.

CJ LaTrobe
CJ LaTrobe

The formation was renamed in the 1930's at a time when visitors were travelling along the Old Coach Road from Port Campbell to Princetown to view the formations.

The iconic golden cliffs and crumbling pillars of the Twelve Apostles can be found 7 km (4.3 miles) east of Port Campbell. They are protected by the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park which covers 7,500 ha (18,533 acres) and runs along 17 km (10.5 miles) of stunning coastline.

The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles

As well as the above water beauty the park protects some of Victoria’s most dramatic underwater scenery. Spectacular arches, canyons, fissures, gutters and deep sloping reefs make up the environment below the waves. Wild and powerful waves of the Southern Ocean constantly pound the coastline which has shaped the area into what you see today.

The remarkable underwater structures provide a complex foundation for magnificent habitats including kelp forests and colourful sponge gardens.

Diving under The Twelve Apostles
A diver near one of the "Drowned Apostles"

Many animals prosper both above and below the water including seabirds, seals, lobsters, reef fish and sea spiders. The inter-tidal and shallow sub-tidal reefs are known to have the greatest diversity of invertebrates on limestone reef in Victoria.

Marine mammals, such as whales, are also known to visit the area. Patient visitors after dark or in the early morning may see Little Penguins which nest in caves below the Twelve Apostles.

Little Penguin at the Twelve Apostles
Meeting a Little Penguin at the Twelve Apostles

Traditional Owners

Parks Victoria acknowledges the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of Victoria - including its parks and reserves. Through their cultural traditions, Aboriginal people maintain their connection to their ancestral lands and waters.

Indigenous tradition indicates that this park is situated between two language group areas. To the west of the Gellibrand River is Kirrae Whurrong Country and to the east of the Gellibrand is Gadubanud Country.

The new will replace the old...

The stacks of the twelve apostles are susceptible to further erosion from the waves. On 3 July 2005, a 50-metre-tall (160 ft) stack collapsed, leaving eight standing. On 25 September 2009, it was thought that another of the stacks had fallen, but this was actually one of the smaller stacks of the Three Sisters formation. The rate of erosion at the base of the limestone pillars is approximately 2 cm per year.

Not all will be lost though, due to wave action eroding the cliff face existing headlands are expected to become new limestone stacks in the future.


Video:  The Great Ocean Road, 12 Apostles, Twelve Apostles before and after Collapse. See Victoria's Shipwreck Coast as its never been seen before. For the first time ever see the 12 Apostles' "Judas", London Bridge and Loch-Ard Gorge's Island Arch before they collapsed in stunning HD video. (Published on Jan 21, 2014)


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