History of the 12 Apostles – A journey along Australia’s Great Ocean Road

History of the 12 Apostles – A journey along Australia’s Great Ocean Road

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 08/18/2016

Reading time: 2 mins

The Southern coast of Australia is carved by the winding Great Ocean Road, and while there are plenty of attractions along the way, there are none quite as iconic as the incredible 12 Apostles.

These magnificent limestone stacks tower above the rough water of the Shipwreck Coast and have become a popular tourist destination for people from around the world.

Located on the border of the Port Campbell National Park in Victoria, this has become the highlight for all who take the trip along the Great Ocean Road. Although they are called the 12 Apostles, there are only 8 pillars left with the ninth having collapsed because of erosion in July of 2005. Since the crash of this 50 m high apostle, the tallest one is now only 45 m, which is still unquestionably impressive. These formations were not always called the 12 Apostles, though, before this, they were known as the Sow and Piglets, the sow being the nearby Mutton Bird Island and the piglets being the 12 Apostles.

Over thousands and thousands of years these apostles have been subject to the ocean’s might, and as the wind and waves have buffeted the cliffs of Shipwreck Coast, the earth has eroded away, leaving behind a handful of pillars in its wake. When you take a closer look at them, you’ll find that these stacks are made up of layers of varying soil types, the main one being the limestone, but the others being a mixture of clay and mudstone. This is the reason for the irregular shape of the erosion. The mudstone and clay layers tend to be more narrow because of the lower density of the soil, which is much more easily eroded by the weather than the slightly denser limestone. Each year the waves eat away on average another 2cm of limestone at the base of these pillars.

These spectacular stacks of limestone are spread out along 17 km of the Shipwreck Coast, providing an incredibly scenic drive alongside one of Australia’s most beautiful roads. The very best time to view them is during sunrise or sunset, as the limestone is illuminated by the fiery orange light of the sun, presenting you with a glorious photo opportunity of the Apostles in all their splendour.

The beautiful pillars along the Shipwreck Coast known as the 12 Apostles have a rich and exciting history that has led them to become iconic Australian rock formations.

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.