The tiny town of Port Campbell is surrounded by some of the Great Ocean Road’s most iconic attractions and is a great place to base yourself while enjoying the area.
Its main streets are lined with colorful shops and restaurants and although it has no more than 500 year-round residents it sees a steady influx of tourists year-round.
Visitors never have to wonder what to do in Port Campbell. There are so many things to do in Port Campbell. Sightseeing, hiking, and swimming are amongst the most popular.
Port Campbell History
The town of Port Campbell predates Port Campbell National Park which runs adjacent to it and is home to the famous 12 Apostles and Loch and Gorge.
The town was settled in the mid to late 1800s and was used a shipping hub for the surrounding farms and townships until the railway opened in 1892. After which, the foreshore was developed and tourism became one of the town’s main economic drivers.
Today, Port Campbell continues to cater to tourism and sustains a small fishing industry.
Port Campbell Location
Port Campbell is located on the Bass Strait, about 12 km west of the 12 Apostles. Port Campbell offers the only sheltered inlet between Port Apollo and Warrnambool, which also makes Port Campbell beach one of the few swimmable beaches along the ‘Shipwreck Coast’.
Port Campbell is located about 10km from Warrnambool and about 220 km from the Melbourne CBD.
Things to Do in Port Campbell
Visit the 12 Apostles Marine Park and Gibson Steps
The most iconic attraction along the Great Ocean Road is without a doubt the 12 Apostles, a series of limestone stacks which rise up out of the Southern Ocean. They can be seen from the park’s viewing platform and are particularly spectacular at sunset.
Visitors must park across the highway from the viewing platform and follow the path toward it. You cannot access the beach across from the 12 Apostles however, you can follow the steps down to beach level at Gibson Steps, which are located about a 1km from the 12 Apostles.
There is a scenic footpath that connects the two Port Campbell attractions by way of the rugged coastline or a car park at both places.
Gibson’s Steps give visitors the opportunity to experience the magnitude of the yellow sand cliffs that dominate the coastline. There are a series of carved steps that lead down to the beach which are believed to have been originally carved by the indigenous Kirrae Whurrong and then were later up kept by a local settler Hugh Gibson.
Fishing is a popular activity here but swimming is not advised.
Loch and Gorge
Loch and Gorge is a gorgeous inlet about 5 minutes from the 12 Apostles. The gorge’s golden cliffs mirror each other and its shallow waters shine vibrantly green and blue when the sun comes out.
However, Loch and Gorge is just as interesting as it is pretty. The gorge played a starring role in the history of the Lord Ard wreck which ran aground nearby.
On its journey from England, the Loch Ard ship, collided with reef near Mutton Bird Island and only two of the fifty-two passengers survived.
The survivors were both nineteen; Tom Pearce was an English apprentice sailor and Eva Carmichael was Irish and traveling with her family who planned to emigrate to Melbourne.
Upon making it ashore Tom heard a women’s cries from the water. So he dove in, in search and rescue of Eva Carmichael.
Afterward, Tom was hailed a hero and the story made national headlines. Much of the population wished the two teens to get married but Eva returned to England shortly after to marry an aristocrat and Tom continued on as a sailor.
There are plaques commemorating the event along the pathway leading down to the beach.
Spend Time at Port Campbell beach
Located in the heart of town is Port Campbell beach. The family-friendly beach is protected from the open ocean and therefore a great place for swimming.
The green foreshore is dog-friendly, but dogs must remain off of the beach. The foreshore is a great place to stop for lunch with a takeaway order or just spend a day basking in the sun.
Visit the Scenic Lookout
Located just off the main beach is a steep set of stairs which lead to Port Campbell’s scenic lookout. Those who climb the steps are rewarded with an incredible view of Port Campbell beach and the town itself.
The scenic lookout can also be reached by way of the marked parking lot located just a short drive out of town.
Visit the Arch, London Bridge, and the Grotto
To the west of Port Campbell is a collection of attractions that should not be missed: the Arch, London Bridge, and the Grotto.
The Arch is an interesting rock formation formed by the oceans pounding waves and strong ocean winds which can be viewed from a designated platform. It is located about 6km from Port Campbell.
Located just up the road from the Arch is London Bridge – another interesting rock formation with a rich history.
Today, London Bridge is made up of one long arch which is located just offshore. However, before 1990 it was made up of two arches which were connected to the mainland.
Visitors were allowed to explore the arches on foot and even drive onto the spit until it collapsed in January 1990. At the time of the collapse, two visitors were left stranded atop London Bridge and had to be rescued by helicopter.
The collapse of part of London Bridge demonstrates the lack of permanence of this ever-changing coast.
There are two viewing platforms at London Bridge. They are located just a short distance from the parking lot. At dusk and dawn, you can also spot members of the local penguin colony heading out or returning from shore.
Located just farther afield from London Bridge is one of the Great Ocean Road’s most interesting attractions. The Grotto is located at sea level and is an archway that looks out onto the open ocean and is one of the most unique ways to experience the Shipwreck Coast.
Located just west of Port Campbell is Shelly Beach which looks out onto Two Mile Bay. This desolate beach is 3km long and great for sunbathers and experienced surfers.
The reef on the eastern end of Two Mile Bay conjures up heavy swell which are loved by big wave surfers. The wave has been dubbed Rifle Range.
Great Ocean Road Tours
Want to explore the Great Ocean Road and Port Campbell Australia but don’t have any wheels? We recommend the following tours.
Have you ever been to Port Campbell? What are your favourite things to do in Port Campbell?