Port Campbell National Park is a Victorian national park in the Southwest Coast of Victoria along the Great Ocean Road. The park is home to the natural icon of Victoria, the 12 Apostles as well as numerous other limestone formations in the area.
The park was first commissioned 1964 initially with 700 hectares in order to protect the limestone formations on and near the coastline adjacent to the Great Ocean Road. By 1981 the park had later been expanded to 1,750 hectares; extending from the eastern side of Curdies Inlet at Peterborough to Point Ronald at Princetown.
In 2002, the Port Campbell Professional Fishermen's Association, a fisherman's association attempted to block the creation of a proposed marine national park at the Twelve Apostles location, which did not succeed. That marine national park can still be seen and explored today.
The landscape of the park features an array of sheer cliffs overlooking offshore islets, rock stacks, gorges, arches, and blow-holes. As the cliff-tops are particularly exposed to the harsh weather conditions from the Southern Ocean, the park is subject to salt-laden air.
Flora and fauna
The fauna in the park includes honeyeaters, the southern emu and fairy wrens, swamp harriers, rufous bristlebird, peregrine falcons, pelicans, ducks, black swans and egrets.
Penguins, terns and dotterels are located along the shoreline, with hooded plovers nesting in exposed locations and the same goes with land animals in the park include southern brown bandicoot, swamp antechinuse and echidna. Generally, the best time to see the penguins are often during summer, just after sunset.
The climate of the park is generally very cold all year around as it's continually exposed to the Southern Ocean winds. Generally, the best time to visit the park is usually in December or January as those are the only warmer months.
From Melbourne, there are two main ways you can enter via car. If you would just like to get there as early as possible without stopping, take the M1 Princes Freeway until Colac and then continue on A1 Princes Highway until the C161 intersection. Once you're at that intersection, turn left, and continue until you've arrive. It takes about 2.5 to 3 hours by car. The second route from Melbourne is a more scenic one via Australia's best known tourist drive and the world's largest war memorial; the Great Ocean Road. From Melbourne, take the M1 Princes Freeway up till Geelong and follow the local signs to the Great Ocean Road. Once you've arrived at the road, continue on the Great Ocean Road for about 3.5 hours until you've arrived at the park.
Port Campbell is accessible via public transport but you will need to do some planning well ahead. The park is connected to Melbourne, Apollo Bay and Warrnambool via the V-Line Great Ocean Road service three times a week. See the V/line website for bookings.
Fees and permits
There may be parking fees, but otherwise you're free to roam around there's no fees and/or permits in the park.
There are numerous walking trails that can be used to get around the park as the park generally has a well-connected system of walking trails. If you're not a fan of walking more than a kilometre, the Great Ocean Road runs thru the middle of the park, with numerous carparks along the way.
- 1 The Twelve Apostles (12 Apostles) (parking clearly marked.). Perhaps the most important natural attraction in the entire state of Victoria, the collection of limestone stacks were formed by erosion by the harsh and extreme weather conditions from the Southern Ocean which gradually eroded the soft limestone to form caves in the cliffs, which then became arches that eventually collapsed, leaving rock stacks up and what we see today. Although the name says "12 Apostles", there were never 12 to begin with, but rather eight when the name was chosen. However, today, there only remains seven after one collapsed in 2005.
- 2 The Twelve Apostles Lookout. Although it may look as it were quite far away from the Twelve Apostles, it's one great lookout where the views of the lookout explain the beauty of this park.
- 3 London Arch (London Bridge). An offshore natural arch which was formed by a gradual process of erosion, and until 1990 formed a complete double-span natural bridge. In 1990, the span closer to the shoreline collapsed which left two tourists stranded. Before the collapse, the arch was known as London Bridge because as it formed a bridge.
- 4 Loch Ard Gorge. Just three minutes' drive from The Twelve Apostles, this gorge is the site of the shipwreck of the clipper ship Loch Ard that ran aground on nearby Muttonbird Island in 1878 approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne. Of the fifty-four passengers and crew, only two survived. The arch of the nearby Island Archway collapsed in June 2009 and the feature now appears as two unconnected rock pillars. They have since been named "Tom" and "Eva" after the two survivors of the Loch Ard shipwreck.
- 5 Tom and Eva Lookout. The main lookout facing west towards the Loch Ard Gorge. The lookout is named after the two unconnected rock pillars, which were named after the two survivors of the Loch Ard shipwreck.
- 6 The Arch. A natural rock shape which is in the middle stage of an island transitioning from tunnel just east of the London Arch (formerly London Bridge).
- 1 Gibson Steps. It's the staircase leading down to the stretch of beach bordering the cliffs of the park and is the first sightseeing stopoff in Port Campbell National Park for travellers heading West along the Great Ocean Road. The cliffs are about 2 minutes drive from The Twelve Apostles, or about 0.16 hours by walking.
- The kiosk (see contact details below) has some simple souvenirs, and is the only place where you can buy things. The town of Port Campbell also has some shops, but is not part of the park
Eat and drink
- 1 Twelve Apostles Kiosk (Twelve Apostles Carpark and Kiosk), Boringa Rd, Port Campbell. It's the only kiosk of any kind in the park although the options are very very limited. There's better options in Port Campbell inside the town.
There isn't any accommodation in Port Campbell National Park and camping or sleeping in carparks is strictly prohibited to preserve the environment. The nearest accommodation can be found at either Port Campbell or Warrnambool.
As always, the regular beach safety protocols apply in the park. Do note that the waters are cold, even in summer, and is definitely not a beach where you'd be going swimming in. The waters are also not suitable for surfing as well.
The maximum speed limit in the park is 80 km/h (50 mph). Make sure to slow down for wildlife and pedestrians.