When Is the Best Time
The 12 Apostles is one of Australia's most iconic attractions and an amazing year-round destination. However, summer and even shoulder seasons often bring heavy crowds. Weekends are usually busier due to the proximity to Melbourne.
My article covers everything you should know before you go. Make sure to read my 7 Must-Do Things almost at the end of this guide.
The best time to visit the Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles is October, November, and February until May. During the Christmas Holidays from mid-December until late January, the 12 Apostles are heavily overrun. Regarding the crowds, spring and autumn are the best seasons for your visit. The most rainfall in winter is from June to September.
Seasons and Weather
In general, the Southern Ocean has a strong influence on the climate. It keeps the winter warmer and the summer cooler. In summer the sun is extreme, but it is not too hot, always a fresh breeze. Most stable weather in summer from January to March. Most precipitation in the winter from June to September. Be prepared for extremely windy conditions.
While weather conditions don't vary heavily throughout the year, the tourist crowds definitely fluctuate. Thus, spring and autumn are the best time. It's frequently windy along the coast; bring a wind jacket the entire year. Rain can occur but the wettest time is the winter until September.
It's getting warmer but also crowded again. Day temps are pleasant between 16°-20°C. It's cooler in the morning and evening. Expect a packed place from around 10 am onwards, even worse when the tour buses arrive around 12. However, it won't change anything of this spectacular view to the limestone pillars. The water temp though is cold around 15°C. During spring break most of the accommodations are fully booked.
Best conditions with usually dry and clear weather. Temps can climb up to almost 30°C, but usually, they stay around 22°C. It's the peak season, and the rates are at their highest (book well in advance for a nearby hotel). 12 Apostles are overrun with visitors during the day. However, come early or late in the day and enjoy the special atmosphere. Even though it is summer, it's not that hot because of the breeze from the sea. Water temps are 18°C maximum. That's still pretty cold.
Fewer visitors but still very busy. Even more so during the Easter holiday and on weekends. Midday is the worst time of the day, but it doesn't change too much of this awesome scenery. The 12 Apostles view is the busiest, the Grotto or London Bridge are less crowded. The weather gets a little cooler. Temps can drop below 20°C, the morning and evening temps are around 10°C only.
The best months if you'd like to enjoy a quieter visit. However, it can still be busy at weekends. Excellent months for taking photos from the large viewing platform without hundreds of others pushing each other shoulder to shoulder. The downside is the weather: While definitely not freezing, it's cooler, and the most rainfall occurs in winter. The advantage you may get fantastic shots with towering clouds in the back.
Explore the Great Ocean Road by rental car or let other people do the work for you. There are excellent private tours offered. It doesn't matter which one you'll choose; all of them are awesome. If you like to discover more of the fascinating forests and wildlife the Grampians, 3 hours west of Melbourne are a Must-Visit combined with the Great Ocean Road and that's my top tour tip.
Time of Day and Tips for Photographer
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During summer and in the shoulder seasons the place is usually utterly crowded during the day. In summer, we arrived after midday and got the feeling there were at least a thousand people from many different countries. It was a little difficult to enjoy the scenery with many people next to us, taking pictures or being asked to take photos of them. Usually, I appreciate taking pics for others, but even while we ate our sandwich, I got asked.
We learnt our lesson and visited the 12 Apostles two years later in spring during the morning. For this reason, come early or late in the day to dodge the crowds. The pro the light in the morning and the sunset are the best time of the day for magical shots from one of the most famous sights around the world. I know it's hard, I am not an early riser but get up very early and try to be there at sunrise: Sunrise / Sunset Times Princetown
Don't miss out on my entire Great Ocean Road Guide - 3 Days Itinerary | Top Tips | Where to Stay
Do you really need to stay the night nearby? YES! If you want to experience the 12 Apostles without massive crowds, then do yourself a favour and book something nearby. Enjoy the peaceful sunset and sunrise! Our 5 recommendations for an exceptional location close to the 12 Apostles, London Bridge and all other attractions of the Port Campbell National Park.
- Clifton Beach Lodge – My Top Tip
The Lodge has the closest location to the 12 Apostles. It is a cosy lodge with a warm atmosphere in beautiful surroundings. It’s quietly located on a huge property. Enjoy your coffee from the balcony. You couldn’t wish for better.
- Southern Ocean Villas
You’ll have a gorgeous stay here. It’s quietly located but in the vicinity to the township of Port Campbell. The villas are spacious and the staff is wonderful.
- Loch Ard Motel and Apartments
Located in walking distance to the beach, restaurants, and cafes in Port Campbell. The hotel rooms and apartments are nice and clean with comfy beds.
- Portside Motel
They are very friendly and accommodating in the Portside Motel. Located on a quieter road but not too far from the town centre. Rooms are spacious and well equipped. Each room has a small area to sit outside.
- Port Campbell Hostel
For those travelling on a budget, this is the right choice. Super friendly staff here. There is a brewery with pizza in the hostel. The kitchen is well equipped and everything is very clean.
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
The Twelve Apostles are limestone rock stacks by the Great Ocean Road and belong to the "12 Apostles Marine National Park" and "The Port Campbell National Park". It's a three-hour drive inland from Melbourne to the most famous part of the Great Ocean Road. Schedule some time to visit the collection of wave-sculpted rock formations and the Twelve Apostles. (Google Maps Link - Melbourne to the 12 Apostles)
Facts About the 12 Apostles
- How many are left? Currently, there are eight Apostles; the ninth one collapsed in 2005.
- Opening Hours: None. You can visit at any time of the day. Early morning and evening are my preferred time.
- Fee: No entrance fee. Even parking is free.
- Parking: Large car park, no fee.
- Time Spent: Most tours via busses spend about an hour here. The entire National Park is worth to visit a whole day.
- Facilities: Kiosk and restrooms
- View: From platforms (see below)
- Location: Google Maps 12 Apostles
Viewing Platforms (Accessibility)
There are 4 connected viewing areas which are very close to each other and easily accessible from the parking area. The distance from the parking lot to the upper viewing area is approximately 280 metres and accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. The main viewing area can be reached via a staircase leading down to the platform. The platform is over 2 metres wide and quite long. Find more details about the other platforms and accessibility here: 12 Apostles Accessibility Information
7 Things to Do at the 12 Apostles - Port Campbell National Park
Of course, there is even more to see and do around the 12 Apostles. These are our highlights after several vacations in Melbourne, Victoria, and around the 12 Apostles. Plan an entire day from sunrise to sunset here, and you experience the most beautiful parts of this little piece of the entire Great Ocean Road.
Definitely, one of the most photographed sides is the 12 Apostles. These limestone stacks were formed by erosion. The harsh weather conditions from the Great Southern Ocean, together with wind, resulted in an erosion of the soft limestone over thousands of years. Walk along the boardwalk to Castle Rock to get the best outlook for all of the “Apostles”.
One km to the east side are the Gibson Steps. There is a small car park only. During the day and in the peak season you have to walk 1.2 km from the 12 Apostles car park to get there. 86 cliff-stairs are leading down to the spectacular beach. It’s the only beach access where you get to two offshore limestone stacks; Magog and Gog. The steps are closed by a gate during high tide. If you want to get a closer look at the beach and the rock formations, check out the tides before. Tide Times 12 Apostles Marine Park
Four km to the west is the next popular stop, the Loch Ard Gorge. The site is named after the clipper, which sank here in 1878. Just two of the 54 passengers survived the disaster. Get more insights into the dramatic shipwreck coast at the Marine Museum in Warrnambool. It’s a 300 m walk down to the beach and gorge. Read the whole story about the Loch Ard Clipper on boards along the short walk. The history of the sunken ship is as fascinating as the scenery. You will love this beach, especially during the summer.
From the Loch Ard Gorge Parking, you can get to The Razorback, which is on the left. To the right leads the trail to Muttonbird Island and Thunder Cave. The Razorback got its name from the sharp edges caused by the strong sea breeze and spray.
Another famous stop in 18 km distance of the 12 Apostles is the collapsed London Bridge. This rock formation and the coastline are constantly attacked by waves (one wave every 14 seconds), rain, and wind, which causes erosions. The collapse of the first arch was just a question of time. Also, the second exposed arch will collapse one day by the forces of nature, leaving two stacks. "The Arch", another rock stack, is nearby but less spectacular.
Drive another two kilometres along the Great Ocean Road to get to the picturesque Grotto. During low tide, the Grotto looks like in my picture.
A helicopter tour is by far the most thrilling way to view the 12 Apostles. However, it’s also the most expensive one. You’ll not only be amazed by this view of the 12 Apostles, but you’ll also notice that the whole fantastic coastline looks different from the air. Most visitors who did this ride loved it.
Open seven days a week from 9 am-5 pm. They provide you with information and maps; souvenirs are available as well. A small kiosk offers snacks, coffee, and beverages. Expect to line up during the busy time of the day. It is said restrooms are opened day and night, but we experienced them closed before 9 am and in the evening.
There is plenty of parking at the main attraction, though it can be pretty full during the summer. All other parking areas are smaller and tend to be full around midday. However, wait just a couple of minutes until the next car is leaving. Limited parking at Gibson Steps better walk the kilometre from the parking at the visitor centre.
Don't leave the walking and hiking trails along the Great Ocean Road. Venomous snakes are common here. We always spotted a tiger snake when visiting the 12 Apostles. They are common to the coastal areas in the south of Australia.