Port Campbell

Twelve Apostles National Park




Driving along the Great Ocean Road is an adventure itself by getting up close to native wildlife, taking in iconic surf breaks, pristine rainforest and misty waterfalls as you go. With the view of the towering 12 Apostles in the horizon it is safe to say that the route is one of the world’s most breath taking scenic coastal drives.

Between Torquay and Warrnambool, the Great Ocean Road is becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia, wooing over 2 million visitors a year.

With the influx of people comes mounting pressures on the Great Ocean Road with activities like photography and the desire to carbon copy images from those before them. Climbing barriers and forging paths through native grasslands to cliff faces has led to the destruction of many sites, but also led to serious injuries and deaths in more recent years.

“There are paths appearing that weren’t there a few years ago. All the native grasses, foliage and bushes that used to be there has now just been torn out because people just don’t respect the area, and the foot traffic that we’ve caused. Everyone’s chasing their own unique compositions which leads to the whole area being destroyed.” Danielle Watson



A brief snapshot of the problem currently facing Port Campbell.

Click image to enlarge.

An average of 3,600 posts are recorded everyday.
An increase of 34% from 2016

The Online Presence

With a search of the geotags and hashtags #thetwelveapostles #12apostles #greatoceanroad #lochardgorge and thousands of images are seen with people off the designated tracks and viewing platforms. Popular and highly dangerous selfie locations such as at Loch Ard Gorge and 12 Apostles Cave are popular for Instgrammers, bloggers and influencers. Flowing posts of these images, hundreds of people ask for the location and how to get to those locations. (images supplied are a sample of those available in which warnings and fences are in place).


The Analytics

Utilising an Instagram social media analytics firm, the data presents interesting trends that traffic around the Great Ocean Road is increasing. However with so many locations and hashtags that could be used it was hard to track exact data, in saying that the data presented is following The Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, The Grotto, London Bridge and Gibson Steps. I chose not to include the Great Ocean Road, as it may include areas outside my focus. (Please note: GeoTagged data does NOT represent unique users, it could represent the same person visiting several locations)

Port Campbell 12 Apostles Social Media Data  (click image to enlarge)

Port Campbell 12 Apostles Social Media Data (click image to enlarge)

Geotagged Location Data

GeoTagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to social media posts which allows the public to identify locations.

Instagram Likes

Instagram likes is when a user sees a post on the platform and likes the image by either double tapping the image or hitting the red heart under the post.


An aerial image of the Twelve Apostles National Park. The markers indicate popular photo/selfie locations, as tracked on social media platforms. Some of the lines indicate cleared paths and sections leading to these locations through revegetation areas. These markers are located outside the designated boardwalk and viewing platforms.


The following markers are located outside the current boardwalks, some of these markers are located in areas that are currently undergoing revegetation.

Twelve Apostles National Park MAP

A benefit of the Twelve Apostles is the infrastructure. Do we really need to take images outside it?

Drones in Restricted AirSpace & National Parks

Parks Victoria has regulations that govern drones within their National Parks. Drones for recreational use by the general public is strictly prohibited. Additionally at the Twelve Apostles National Park there is two helicopter heliports in which operate tourist flights throughout the day.

Above: CASA Can I Fly There app shows the location and airspace marked as restricted airspace however the National Park is a No Fly Zone.

Tourist helicopter flights run continuously throughout the day and the National Park is a NO FLY ZONE.

Despite the warnings people still operate drones within the Twelve Apostles National Park, in fact whilst documenting this project I was amazed to see the number of cars and people parked on the side of the road piloting what I thought was a drone. Upon getting to the location it was clear (owning a drone myself) the sound of drones in the sky. Upon talking to locals, they informed me that as the Twelve Apostles is strictly a no fly zone and Park Victoria police the carpark and boardwalks, visitors now launch from the Great Ocean Road and fly into the National Park instead.

The weather and waves from the Southern Ocean is always carving new caves into the soft limestone cliffs, which turns to arches, then they collapse.
— Wikipedia

The Real Impact

Signage is located throughout the Twelve Apostles National Park warning of unstable cliffs, in popular locations Parks Victoria have put in place higher fencing to discourage people to climb barriers and fences, however visitors still climb out onto cliff’s edges for a selfie or to capture there trophy images. The native flora and fauna is being destroyed in the process as paths and tracks are carved throughout the region. The frightening element is to knowing what you would be standing on is solid.

Click images for captions and larger images (Lightbox)

Five years ago, only a handful of people would get up for sunrise. Now you need to get there an hour before to get a spot. You’re now one of more than a hundred.
— Will Davidson


“I really could not believe all the people I saw climb barriers despite warnings of danger and unstable cliffs. I can’t believe people are so stupid. Why can’t you get the photo your after from behind the barriers?”

Betty Watson