Spot the regions unique and diverse wildlife whilst exploring
the regions dramatic coast and hinterlands
The comical antics of little penguins can be observed from two cliff top vantage points in Port Campbell National Park. Observe the complex social behavior of their nightly return at both the 12 Apostles and London Bridge viewing platforms.
Arrival times vary according to time of year. The best guide is to be settled onto the viewing platform by sunset, penguins generally appear between 10 and 15 minutes after sunset with their mass exit usually occurring 20 and 25 minutes later as twilight fades to dark. Much communication occurs as the penguins return from the sea including the odd territorial dispute.
The population of birds is significantly more at the 12 Apostles (around 800 birds) but viewers are a little closer to the birds at London Bridge.
Little penguins dive mostly between 5m and 25m, but have been recorded diving to depths of up to 60m. They mainly eat small fish and squid but will also eat crabs, sea horses and shellfish from the sea floor.
Little penguins are the world’s smallest penguin specie and are the only specie to breed on the Australian mainland.
And yes, todays little penguins are the fairy penguins of yesteryear. Much speculation is rife about the name change, the new name reflects the scientific name Eudyptula Minor (Eudyptula is Greek for good little diver) and has nothing to do with political correctness and use of the term fairy.
The birds spend little time in the water during moulting season - February/March, hence activity is not as prevalent. The birds won’t resume a normal behavior until their feathers are completely coated with the waterproof waxy film produced by a gland near the base of their tail.
A sealed undulating 600m return path from the main car park to the viewing platform . The walkway from the main viewing area to the car park has down lights present to assist you after dusk.
Nightly Wildlife Show
Many of the animals living around the 12 Apostles Coast and Hinterland area wait until dusk or night fall to show their faces. Those with a keen sense of adventure will be rewarded with sightings of these special creatures.
For a closer encounter collect your FREE binoculars at the Visitor Information Centre in Port Campbell.
During the months of September until April, the return to roost of the mutton-bird (short-tailed shearwater) can be observed from a viewing platform at Mutton Bird Island in the Loch Ard Gorge precinct. At this time the 150m by 80m island is home to about 12,000 birds. The nightly swarming return and almost instantaneous disappearance of the birds into their burrows is a spectacle worthy of the incredible backdrop. Arrival times are similar to the penguins making it near impossible to see both displays on the one night.
Both parents incubate the egg which is laid towards the end of November. The chick hatches during the 3rd week of January. After this time both parent birds will return to roost and regurgitate for the chick (effectively doubling the numbers returning each evening)
The annual migration of the Shearwater takes them on a round trip of around 30 000km taking in Northern Asia and the Aleutian islands in the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia. Only 10% of birds survive until their 3rd year. 50 000 birds are drowned annually by fishing nets in the North Pacific Ocean.
A joint treaty protecting the short-tailed Shearwater exists between Australia and Japan. Both countries monitor the Shearwater populations whilst the birds are in their area. Japan and other countries are attempting to minimize the number of birds that are drowned by their fishing operations.
There are no designated accessible car parks at the Mutton-bird island car park. Access to the top viewing platform is 100m on crushed rock and is suitable for prams and wheelchairs. There are steps to a lower viewing platform
Fairy lights in the forest! Melba Gully (35 minutes east of the 12 Apostles) provides a fitting end to our nightly spectacular. The deep rainforest is home to colonies of glow worms. Glow worms aren’t worms; they are the larvae of fungus gnats.
The eerie green light emanates from the abdomen of the larvae. It is visible throughout the forest and is most brilliant after rain and on non moonlit nights. Disturbing the larvae by shining torches directly or touching them reduces the light and is harmful to the larvae.
Caution: Torches are essential; visitors should take extra care on the Great Ocean Road after dark.
Accessible car parking spots are clearly marked. A switchback path bypasses the steps to the amenities block and interpretive display. A switchback path also provides access to the sheltered BBQ area (No coins required) The path becomes steep in parts and not entirely suitable for prams and wheelchairs beyond this point.
Kangaroos, Marsupials & Monotremes
Eastern grey kangaroos, black (swamp) and red shouldered wallabies are common in both Port Campbell National Park Bay of islands Coastal Park. Macropods (meaning big foot) are crepuscular in nature; they are far more active and likely to be sighted at dusk and dawn.
The Gellibrand River Estuary is a great spot for viewing kangaroos. Call in at Princetown and look over the river from the viewing platform in town to view their antics.
Look for evidence of pre-dawn and dusk drinks left by footprints in the sand near the river mouth. Smaller prints may belong to the southern brown bandicoot or even the endangered long nosed potoroo.
Echidnas are commonly sighted on the edge of trails and roadside verges in search of a tasty insect treat. Their meandering footprints are easily identifiable and often included in the mix of footprints in sandy estuarine regions.
Young echidnas are called puggles, when they grow spines they are evicted from the pouch and left in an underground den. Female echidnas may leave for days on end before returning to feed their hungry puggle.
Away from the coast, there are a few lesser known locations fantastic for bird watching:
*Kanawinka Geopark – Lakes and Wetland precinct
*Lake Corangamite and Bookar in particular are prolific for water birds and waders including Heron, Crake and Water Hen. These venues also play host to the enigmatic seasonal visits of Godwit, Snipe and Stint. The enigmatic pelican is often seen at Lakes Bullen Merri, Bookar Purrumbete and Corangamite.
*Look for Wedgetail Eagle, Black Kite, Nankeen Kestrel and Black Shouldered Kte soaring and hovering over the undulating farmland in search of prey.
*Lakes Bookar and Corangamite offer plenty to observe against a backdrop of volcanic peaks.
*Ralph Illidge Sanctuary
*SW of Terang lies the 65ha Ralph Illidge Sanctuary, a beautiful tract of remnant vegetation home to many species including the powerful owl. Picnic facilities are provided at the Sanctuary, including shelters, tables and barbecues. Admission is by donation as the Sanctuary depends on donations for maintenance and improvements.
For wetland species near the coast try the Princetown Boardwalk and the Old Ocean Road between Princetown and Lower Gellibrand and the Curdies Inlet at Peterborough.
Loch Ard Gorge, Port Campbell Discovery Walk and the trail from Bay of Martyrs east into Peterborough provide good opportunities and diversity at dusk and dawn.
Open weekends and public holidays between 11.00 am and 6.00 pm.
Guided walks and group bookings can be arranged by contacting the rangers on 5566 2320
Wetland, Heath, Tall Forest and Pelagic opportunities are presented with stunning backdrops and within a short drive or walk from local towns. For international visitors the scale, color and volume of species is often overwhelming.
The main cliff top viewing areas offer opportunities to spot Australasian Gannets, wandering Abatross, Nankeen Kestrel and Peregrine Falcon. A scenic boat trip will yield more for those in search of pelagic species.
The low slung coastal heath is often alive with twittering and activity. Look and listen for Rufous Bristle bird, singing Honeyeater, Southern Emu and superb Fairy Wrens and the often cheeky Grey Fantail. Neophemas seasonally sighted in the area include Blue Winged Parrots and all too rarely the rare Orange Bellied Parrot
Guides and FREE binoculars are available for visitor use at the 12 Apostles Visitor Information Centre in Port Campbell.
The Rufous Bristle
The endangered rufous bristle bird is technically abundant in the protected coastal heath of our National and Coastal parks. Ardent twitchers that have often waited a long time to see the birds are often disappointed when directed to the car park at Loch Ard Gorge for an almost guaranteed sighting. The cocky birds put on quite a show fluffing their rust colored crest twitching their tails and doing a fair impression of the roadrunner darting across the car park.
The less common white morph of the grey goshawk is referred to locally as the Otway white goshawk. These cunning birds have been observed hunting as individuals amidst packs of long billed corellas. The similar size and shape of the birds provides cover and loud non threatening decoy to confuse their prey. The section of the coast to crater trail near the Timboon railway shed distillery will often yield a sighting of this species.
Many a visitor has marveled at how little penguins can get themselves to the top of rock stacks. Don’t be deceived, the flying impostors are pied cormorants, who from a distance can take on a distinctly penguin like appearance. Penguins that can and have been sighted in the area apart from little blue’s are royal and fjordland penguins.
Bandicoots, Possums & Potoroos
The southern brown bandicoot is more active at dusk and dawn but may be spotted during the day. Loch Ard Gorge and the Port Campbell Discovery Walk offer opportunities for visitors and look for signs of their activity.
The largest surviving carnivore in this region is the spotted tail quoll which is found in tall and coastal forest in the Otway ranges. Omnivorous southern brown bandicoots and the smaller swamp antechinus (pictured) are found throughout the coastal fringe.
The rabbit sized potoroo is the smallest member of the kangaroo family. They are occasionally recorded near the coast but are more commonly found in tracts of remnant forest south of Camperdown and at Ralph Illidge sanctuary south of Terang.
The rare eastern pygmy possum is about the size of a mouse it is found in coastal areas from Cape Otway to Warrnambool.
Whales & Marine Animals
Southern Right Whales are commonly sighted between June and October. They quite often spend days at a time in sheltered coves and bays providing ideal vantage points (including the Port Campbell Pier.) Their movements however are less predictable than in known calving areas like Logans Beach at nearby Warrnambool.
A good partnership with scenic flight operators ensures accurate whale location information is provided to visitors at the 12 Apostles Visitor Information Centre in Port Campbell.
Humpbacks whales are itinerant visitors from May June and in September to November. Other species are certainly in the area including the blue whale (November to April) but are generally too far offshore for land based viewing. Boat and air operations operate out of Portland 160km to the west.
Dolphins, porpoise and pilot whales can be sighted year round from the cliff top viewing areas unfortunately their appearance carries no known rhyme or reason. Orcas have also been sighted in the winter months.
Lone bull and young seals (full name) are often sighted on the beaches and in the bays. There are several known haul out points that are often inhabited by basking individuals.
Please keep your distance from seals on land they can be surprisingly quick in short bursts. Many a concerned individual has had to retreat quickly from a seal they have prodded thinking it was dead.
FREE binoculars are available from the Visitor Information Centre in Port Campbell for enhanced viewing
Up Close & Personal
Easier than tracking footprints in the sand, guided tours and wildlife parks around the Twelve Apostle and hinterland region take the guess work out of meeting everyones favourite locals.
Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park
Hand feed the friendly kangaroos, wallabies, emu and deer, then take a walk around the sanctuary to observe more animals. A visit to the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park is a must for those with a soft spot for the cute and cuddly.
Port Campbell Boat Charter
Pass under the sea archers and bridges, feel dwarfed at the footings of the Twelve Apostles and spot fur seal and migrating whales. Take a Port Campbell Boat Charter to see these iconic shores from a new perspective.
Address: 32 Lord Street, Port Campbell
Phone: +61 3 5598 6366
Reptiles & Amphibians
Of all reptiles found in the region it the snakes that generate most interest and fear. Copper heads, tigers and the white lipped snake are common on the coast. Browns and the red bellied black snake come into range further to the north.
Snakes in southern Victoria are often shorter, fatter and darker than the same species further north. Fatter darker snakes warm more quickly in the cooler southern climate.
Caution: Snakes will generally move away from the sound and vibration of human activity. Making noise while walking can gives snakes an opportunity to move away. Always wear solid shoes and socks when undertaking walks in the region. A close up photo of a snake however tempting is not worth the risk.
Frogs have very special skin! They don’t just wear it they drink and breathe through it. The skin of a frog absorbs all their moisture requirements and assists the lungs in providing oxygen.
In local wetlands and low lying areas frogs are more often heard than seen. Listen for the loud ‘tok’ of the striped marsh frog and the ‘ick-ick-ick’ of the spotted marsh frog.
Lizards & Skinks
Significant native grassland to the north of the coast protects the rare corangamite water skink and the striped legless lizard.