This treacherous stretch of coastline is now one of the most visited locations in Australia – but where is the Shipwreck Coast?
Australia’s Shipwreck Coast is located in the state of Victoria, in the country’s south east. It is approximately 3 hours drive from Melbourne. However, you can take the longer but much more scenic route to get there – the Great Ocean Road.
This is the most popular day trip departing from Melbourne. If you are visiting Australia’s second largest city, it is well worth taking a tour of this iconic coastal drive. On a day trip of the Great Ocean Road you will see many highlights, including surf beaches, koalas, rainforest and of course the towering cliffs and rock formations of the Shipwreck Coast.
The area has a tragic history – of many maritime incidents – and yet today, it is more well known for the famous limestone stacks – the 12 Apostles.
Read on to find out more about the Shipwreck Coast.
How do I get to the Shipwreck Coast?
The Shipwreck Coast can be reached via the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne. Or via an inland route from the city as well. The scenic drive will take approximately 4 hours, the inland route is 2.5 hours. The Great Ocean Road starts in Torquay which is just over one hours drive from Melbourne.
The most famous shipwreck in Australia
Not far from the 12 Apostles is an incredible coastal gorge that is the site of the 1878 Loch Ard Shipwreck on the Great Ocean Road. It is one of the most famous shipwrecks to have occurred in Australian waters – not because of the wreck of the ship, but because of the two survivors.
The Loch Ard was a ship that set sail from the UK in 1878. On board were wealthy families who were travelling to live in Melbourne. After three months at sea they reached what is now called the Shipwreck Coast and had trouble navigating the rough waters. The Loch Ard wrecked on rocks adjacent to what is now called Mutton Bird Island and, of the 54 people on board, only two survived.
The two survivors were Eva Carmichael, who had been travelling to Australia with her family – and Tom Pierce, who was a young merchant sailor. Both were just teenagers at the time of the shipwreck. After Tom climbed out of the gorge in search of help, he came across farmers on a nearby property. After Eva was rescued by the farmers, both the teenagers were cared for by the Gibson family who owned the property.
Loch Ard Gorge today
Today you can explore Loch Ard Gorge on the Shipwreck Coast. There are a number of walking trails around the cliffs and stairs that descend into the gorge. Take the time to explore and you’ll be marvelling at the power of nature and the bravery of the two young survivors.
Top things to do on the Shipwreck Coast
The 12 Apostles
The Shipwreck Coast is home to many incredible locations. The most famous is the limestone stacks called the 12 Apostles. From the 12 Apostles Lookout you can view these rock formations alongside the high limestone cliffs. It is particularly spectacular at sunset when the sun dips behind the rock and lights up the sky with many colours.
Another popular location on the Shipwreck Coast is Gibson Steps. This scenic area has a lookout at the cliff edge and steep steps carved into the cliff. From the lookout you can view rock formations and tall limestone cliffs. You can also descend the cliff via the stairs to reach the beach and come face to face with the wild southern ocean.
The Razorback and Island Archway
The Razorback is a long, narrow rock formation nearby Loch Ard Gorge. From the Loch And Gorge carpark you can take a scenic walk along the coast to the Razorback Lookout. You can take a close up look at the rock formation as well as cliffs, caves and the wide Southern Ocean. Along the same path you can view the Island Archway. Thi rock formation used to form and arch, however the top collapsed in 2015, leaving just two large pillars in the ocean.
Witness a wild Southern Ocean
The Shipwreck Coast is infamous for rough seas. In the past it made this coastline very difficult for sailors. Witnessing large waves rolling in at the 12 Apostles you can see the coastal erosion that occurs every day. Or standing in Loch Ard Gorge with waves crashing against the cliffs, you can imagine the terror of the survivors of the Loch Ard shipwreck.
Spot whales in winter
Winter is the time when whales migrate from the Antarctic to the warm waters around Australia. Humpback whales and Southern Right Whales make the journey and both types of whales can be spotted from lookout points – particularly along the Shipwreck Coast.
Shipwreck Coast tour options
You can visit the Shipwreck Coast on our Great Ocean Road Day Tour from Melbourne or the Sunset Tour of the Great Ocean Road.
Great Ocean Road Day Tour
- Enjoy morning tea on the picturesque beach in Torquay of Victoria’s Surf Coast
- Relax and enjoy the scenic drive along the Great Ocean Road
- Visit the Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park
- Explore Loch Ard Gorge, the site of the Loch Ard shipwreck
- See koalas in their natural habitat at Kennett River
- Visit the charming coastal town of Apollo Bay
Great Ocean Road Sunset Tour
- Tour the beaches of Victoria’s famous Surf Coast
- Spot wild koalas at Kennett River township
- Drive through the Great Otway National Park
- Marvel at the natural beauty of Loch Ard Gorge and hear the famous tale of shipwreck survival
- Walk down the cliffs to the beach at Gibsons Steps (time permitting)
- Visit the charming coastal township of Apollo Bay
Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator @gowest.com.au