The Gibson Steps
Some of the most iconic images of this region are shot from this location. The Gibson Steps allow one access to the beach level, where one can stand almost toe to toe against a couple of the limestone stacks that make up the Apostles. The Gibson Steps have undergone a redevelopment around 2008, and were still being further developed during my last visit in May 2013. The step set of steps descend to a sandy beach, and are open round the clock (thought I would not recommend making this descent after dark). During high tides, parts of the beach can become impassable.
The car park of the Gibson Steps is right along the highway, and becomes heavily used in the mid to late afternoons when the bulk of tourists – day trippers from Melbourne – arrive in Port Campbell. The descent to the beach takes no more than 10 minutes, and the walk to get up close and personal with the limestone stacks are a further 15 minutes.
Best times to visit
While the location is open all year round, the best time to shoot here is in the late spring through to the early autumn when the weather is warm. The cooler weather brings with it a lot of rain that can play spoil sport with any plans of capturing some good images. While both sunrise and sunset are the best times to visit, early mornings in the winter also offer mist cupled with the early morning viewed at sunrise and sunset.
The weather here constantly changes, and its not uncommon for a cloudless sky to suddenly become inclement. On a day with a lot of cloud activity, one can probably pull off some good shots through till the late morning, and then again around sunset.
Tides affect this location considerably. At low tide, one can walk up to the limestone stacks. The wet sand offers a flat, highly reflective surface that offers “the” iconic composition.
Check the tide. This area is impassable at high tide. If the tide is coming in, it is probably not safe to visit this area.
As with all outdoor locations that are a good hike, it’s a good idea to check on the weather and the tides. This part of the coast has constantly changing weather patterns, and it is not uncommon to go from bright and sunny to miserable and rainy in a matter of minutes. It is also worth checking on the times for sunrise and sunset.
From the perspective of a photographer, the odds are that your camera lenses will take a beating from the sea spray. I recommend that you carry a towel and some microfiber cloth to keep your lenses clean. Tripods are essential. Your choice of lens would typically be a wide-angle lens. You will probably not shoot anything at a focal length of beyond 60mm, so I recommend leaving the zoom lens at home.
If you’re planning an early morning or late evening shoot, be sure to carry a flashlight with you.
The ground that you will have to cover is soft. My recommendation is to wear a pair of good, solid hiking boots.
Always dress in layers. The weather and temperature here constantly changes, and its very easy to suffer from exposure to the elements. In the summer, it is imperative that you have sunscreen on you. Last, but not least, I recommend the use of a hiking pole.
Vehicular Access: Highway access to the parking lot.
Pedestrian Access: Wooden staircase, sandy and partially rocky beach.
Fitness levels required: Suitable for any reasonably fit individual. Not suitable for individuals with mobility restrictions.
Walk Difficulty: Medium
Amount of time required at the site: About an hour.
Price of Admission: Free
Access hours: 24 hours a day
Notes of caution: Not safe when the tide is high. The stairs are slippery when wet, and are very steep. You might run into a snake or two in the area. Proceed with caution.
Recommendations: Use a pair of hiking poles. They will make your walk along the beach much easier.