8 Fascinating Facts about the Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles

Get to know this spectacular coastal drive near Melbourne with these interesting nuggets of information.

Travelling on the Great Ocean Road is one of the top activities from Melbourne, taking in iconic sights such as the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, the Otways and many charming seaside towns along the way. Understand a little more about the road and its attractions before your trip with these facts about the Great Ocean Road.

  • 1. It’s the world’s largest war memorial

    Construction on the Great Ocean Road began in 1919 as a way to open up the region to road transportation and create jobs for thousands of Australian soldiers who returned from World War I. The road is dedicated to the Australian soldiers who gave their life in WWI, with Memorial Arch at the eastern end paying tribute to their sacrifice.

  • 2. It’s 243 kilometres long

    The scenic drive covers from Torquay all the way west to Allansford, with many picturesque towns, beaches and lookout points along the way.

  • 3. There are at least 638 known shipwrecks laying at the bottom of the ocean along the Great Ocean Road

    It’s no wonder they call the treacherous coastline from Moonlight Head to Port Fairy the Shipwreck Coast. While 240 shipwrecks have been discovered, many more lay undisturbed on the ocean floor.

  • 4. The 12 Apostles were originally called the Sow and Piglets

    Englishman George Bass named the limestone stacks the Sow and Piglets in 1798, but the name was changed in the 1920s to the Apostles. The name change was probably a marketing decision, made in the hope of drawing tourists along the newly created Great Ocean Road.

  • 5. But there were never 12 Apostles

    Their new name wasn’t true even in 1920s. At most nine apostles were visible from the viewpoint, until 2005 when another succumbed to the power of the ocean and collapsed into the water, leaving eight remaining. Erosion, wind and waves continue to batter the remaining apostles, so it’s only a matter of time before another one disappears.

  • 6. The 12 Apostles are made of animal skeletons

    Millions of years ago, the area surrounding the Great Ocean Road was covered by the ocean. The skeletons of billions of marine animals accumulated on the ocean floor and over time turned into the limestone from which the 12 Apostles are formed. When the ocean level receded, wind, water and erosion wore away weaker parts of the limestone, revealing the stacks we see standing today.

  • 7. The Great Ocean Road is home to a carnivorous snail

    The spectacular scenery of the Great Ocean Road is not restricted to the coast. Take a walk through the Otway Rainforest to admire incredible ancient eucalypt trees and impressive tree ferns, while keeping an eye out of the Otway black snail. The small black snail is endemic to the forest and feasts on worms, slugs and other snails.

  • 8. It’s home to the longest running event in the World Surf League World Championship Tour

    Bells Beach has hosted the famous surf competition every Easter since 1962 (except 2020 – damn covid-19). While the competition was the location for the final scene in the 1991 film Point Break, the scene was actually filmed in Oregon US.

Related article: Which is the Best Great Ocean Road Tour?