The Twelve Apostles are limestone stacks rising up from the Southern Ocean in the Port Campbell National Park in Victoria, Australia. Despite the name, there have only ever been nine main stacks standing alongside numerous, uncounted smaller ones. In a fitting testament to the erosion that formed them, one crumbled into the sea in 2005, leaving just eight now remaining.
The stacks currently stand at up to 45 m (~148 ft) high, although the constant wind and wave erosion in the softer rock at their bases continues to occur at the rate of about 2 cm (nearly 1 inch) per year. But as these crumble, the waves continue to batter the headland, creating the new stacks of the future. It’s estimated that the evolution of a stack from headland to arch to stack and collapse can occur in just 600 years on the Port Campbell coast, creating a constantly changing landscape.
The Twelve Apostles are seen by around 1.2 million tourists annually. Although the stacks themselves are largely inaccessible to people, there is a visitors’ centre which leads via a tunnel under the Great Coastal Road to various platforms for viewing them at their best. The eastern viewing area includes a steep path and is unsuitable for those with limited mobility, but there is a lower platform to accommodate wheelchairs, pushchairs and the less able.
The other main attraction at the Twelve Apostles is the birds: the variety and sheer volume of species is astounding. The main cliff top viewing areas are great places to see wandering albatrosses, Australasian gannets, nankeen kestrels and peregrine falcons. And the coastal heath surrounding the area is a renowned habitat for the endangered rufous bristle bird, which thrives alongside the singing honeyeater, southern emu and several species of parrot. At certain times of the day, it’s even possible to see the community of 3,000 little penguins that have made the stacks their home.