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ExperienceOz presents

AUSTRALIA'S MOST EPIC WALKS AND HIKES

4. Twelve Apostles Walk, VIC

TRACK HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Scenic 8 day, 104km coastal journey
  • One of Australia's most iconic coastlines
  • Tall forests, amazing sunsets, scenic viewpoints

WHEN TO GO:

  • March - May best period
  • Best balance of weather/sunsets

LEVEL OF CHALLENGE

Easy to moderate; no steep slopes

SUMMARY OF THE TRACK

One of Australia's most photographed natural wonders, the Great Ocean Road and its iconic 12 Apostles rock formations are a staple of Australian travel promotional material. With its incredible example of dramatic coastal scenery, rocky cliff faces and vast stretches of open beach, what may be one of the world's most beautiful drives also makes for one of the country's essential walks for hiking enthusiasts that's suitable for walkers of any ability level.

"With its iconic, incredible example of dramatic coastal scenery, rocky cliff faces and vast stretches of open beach, what may be one of the world's most beautiful drives also makes for one of the country's essential walks."

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Spread out over the course of just over 100km, the combination of some of Australia's tallest coastal cliffs, the remnants of various historical shipwrecks and expansive stretches of uninhabited beach make for a walk that provides a new highlight seemingly around every corned. Additional variety also comes at regular intervals with the trek meandering away from the coastline in several sections including into the heart of the lush, wooded greenery of the Otway National Park.

The full stretch of the walk lasts for 8 days when done properly, from the starting point of Apollo Bay to the end of the track at Glenample Homestead where the iconic formations of the 12 Apostles come into view and serve as a major reward for completing the journey. The "Great Ocean Walk" consists of a lot of beach walking - much of which is on hard sand making for slightly easier going - with 7 designated campsites spread throughout the track that serve as marker points for the end of each day, and require prior bookings for usage.

In addition, walkers have the ability to step on and off the trail fairly easily, with a range of accommodation to choose from at various towns along the way should you choose not go the camping route - a benefit that is uncommon to most of Australia's other, more isolated, Great Walks.

12 Apostles Walk in Pictures:

12 Apostles Walk 1 12 Apostles Walk 2 12 Apostles Walk 3 12 Apostles Walk 4

The walk commences from the Apollo Bay Information Centre, with the initial portion of the track involving a walk along the beach from Apollo Bay and through the harbour; at low tides you may be able to cross the river and walk on a lovely section of beach that is typically completely deserted, which helps to set the isolated tone for things to come.

The journey travels from east to west from this point, with a walk that passes through the wonderfully rocky shoreline of the beachside suburb of Marengo, dotted with pockets of secluded beach where a colony of Australian Fur Seals can often be spotted sunning themselves on the rocks. You'll have the choice to stick to beach/coastal pathways or follow trails inland; as the beach is the goal for many, entrances to beach sections along the Great Ocean Walk are marked by triangular yellow flags, so keep an eye out for them.

12 Apostles Walk Map:

12 Apostles Walk map
Click to view full size interactive map.

Before long, you'll find yourself heading into the Otway National Park, where a delightful amount of tall, woodland forestry and greenery await. It's this surprising amount of variation amongst environments along the way that help to prevent any monotony on what is a long journey, broken up intermittently by a range of gorgeous lookouts that provide incredible vistas.

While many people will instead choose to drive the Great Ocean Road, the walk provides a number of vantage points that views from a car simply can't offer. The forested sections of the trail are also home to numerous species of native wildlife including koalas, echidnas, wallabies and a wide range of bird life, adding a dash of animal-oriented goodness to the already impressive diversity.

One of the other key highlights that is important to mention is the quality of the sunsets that can be encountered on the walk. Voted by the Australian public in our poll for the Top 10 Sunsets in Australia, the vivid red hue of the sun dappling its colours and shadows over the craggy cliff faces and reflecting off the water below creates one of nature's most impressive spectacles, and a number of the lookout points along the way make for a great spot to take in a sunset before settling in and making camp for the evening.

Track sections and best parts:

  • Day 1: Apollo Bay to Shelley Beach (4 hours) - The trip commences here, with terrain that features secluded beaches and gives walkers the option to either follow a rock platform or head through sandy foreshores and boardwalks. The countryside gradually changes, opening up into more verdant, rolling farmland offering plenty of greenery.
    Stop and admire some lovely coastal views from a resting bench overlooking the seaside, then press on and pass the Blowhole that creates some loud, churning water displays during windier conditions. Pass Three Creeks Beach, and push on to Shelley Beach where there's a picnic area that makes for an ideal resting and refreshment spot. Cap the day off by reaching Elliot Ridge campsite to stop for the evening. Apollo Bay Victoria
  • Day 2: Shelley Beach to Parker Inlet (6-7 hours) - This day starts off by heading away from the coast into the Otway National Park proper, a region that is renowned for its towering Ash trees that can reach heights of up to 65 metres. It's a shaded and cooler portion of the trail that can still be quite hilly in parts. Rejoin the coast at Blanket Bay – a well-serviced area popular with campers - that makes for a great spot for dipping your toes in the water.
     
    Pressing on, walk through lighter coastal forests that are teeming with native wildlife such as wallabies, echidnas, rosella and cockatoo birds, before arriving at the peaceful Parker Inlet to conclude the day's trek.
  • Day 3: Parker Inlet to Aire River (5 hours) - Head out from Parker Inlet and follow the water's edge with rock shelves and beaches leading their way around Port Franklin. Travel slightly inland through light treed sections of track (keep an eye out for koalas here, as they can be found in abundance) and you'll arrive at the iconic Cape Otway Lightstation, the oldest operating lighthouse in the country.
     
    Press pass the lighthouse and over landscapes of sweeping sand dunes, wonderful cliffs, and the cascading waters of Rainbow Falls that are particularly impressive if there's been recent rainfall. Continue on to the Aire River Lookout for some picturesque views of the river meeting the ocean, then travel downhill to the Aire River Campsite. Cape Otway Lighthouse
  • Day 4: Aire River to Johanna Beach (5 hours) - The trail winds inland, travelling through verdant forest and around the headland before re-diverting to the coastline with open views of the untamed coast, with a fair number of ascents and descents along the way.
     
    Arrive at lovely Castle Cove, a pristine beach surrounded by towering cliffs, and spend some time enjoying this unique environment, then push upwards along cliff tops through heathland with occasional breaks that offer magnificent coastal views, where Peregrine Falcons can often be seen swooping in the skies in search of a meal. Finally, you'll reach the stunning Johanna Beach nestled amongst the sand dunes that makes for a wonderful campsite.
  • Day 5: Johanna Beach to Ryan's Den (5 hours) - Widely considered to be the most difficult portion of the entire track, leaving Johanna Beach leads to a section that alternates between farmland and beach with an up-and-down degree of elevation that can prove challenging but rewarding, including a major highlight at beautiful Milanesia Beach.
     
    This seldom-visited part of the coast is a true seaside oasis, and sums up the secluded nature of the walk to a tee. Continue along high sea cliffs offering incredible views from where you've come before arriving at Ryan's Den campsite.
  • Day 6: Ryan's Den to Devil's Kitchen (6 hours) - Make your way through stretches of coastal forest to Moonlight Head that offers more superb views, then head down into a valley to the Gables Lookout which sits on an extremely high point of the clifftop. Views here are expansive enough that whales can often be spotted breaching during their annual migratory season from June to September.
     
    Press on until reaching Wreck Beach where you'll encounter the weather-worn anchors of wrecked ships the Marie Gabrielle and the Fiji, which adds an eerie touch of beauty to the waterfront. From here it's only a relatively short distance to the Devil's Kitchen campsite. Wreck Beach Victoria
  • Day 7: Devil's Kitchen to the 12 Apostles - the final day's walk heads along a relatively new section of trail with the ultimate goal of reaching the Apostles themselves; head past Princetown and its surrounding wetlands before crossing the Gellibrand River's bridge.
     
    Walk on the newly-constructed path through scrub along the coast and into the Port Campbell National Park where the Apostles await. Arrive at Gibson's Beach Carpark for the culmination of the trip and walk to the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre to view the Apostles in person.

12 Apostles Walk in Motion:

The main Apostles lookout has been designed to offer the ideal perspective for visitors looking for a photo, and as a result it's an incredibly popular spot that tends to be crowded throughout the year. The Apostles themselves make for a majestic sight that photographs don't really do justice; while “12 Apostles” has remained the go-to name for the massive limestone pillars despite 4 of them having crumbled since their original discovery, the sheer size of the remaining 8 formations and their contrast against the colourful water is truly impressive.

Reaching up to 45 metres in height, 7 of the pillars are easily visible from the observation platform with the other rock formations hidden by both individual Apostles and the headland. Helicopter rides are also available as an optional extra that can provide even more spectacular views of this dramatic coastline, however you'll have to pay a significant chunk of money for the privilege.

The 12 Apostles Great Walk offers one of the world's most impressively sweeping coastal views and thus is easy to recommend for even first-time hikers due to its combination of relatively easygoing walking conditions and convenient access from nearby Victorian capital Melbourne. The Great Ocean Road may be Great, but the Great Ocean Walk defines “epic” in every sense of the word.

Click for: Larapinta Trail, NT | Bay of Fires Lodge Walk, TAS | Fraser Island, QLD | Cape to Cape Track, WA | Snowy Mountains, NSW | Flinders Ranges, SA | Twelve Apostles, VIC | Freycinet, TAS | Blue Mountains, NSW | Overland Track, TAS

To book one of these epic hiking journeys for yourself and embark on the adventure of a lifetime, be sure to visit our dedicated walking and hiking section for bookings.

VIEW ALL WALKS AND HIKES

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