The fish make the annual migration to Betty’s Beach and so should you
By Colin Kerr
The south west of Western Australia is, for many travellers, a destination in itself worth a month or more to take it all in. Albany, on the south coast, is one of the popular bases from which to explore much of the area’s most southern regions.
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In this part of WA, one of the places not to be missed (particularly if you’re looking for a great free coastal campsite for a couple of days) is Betty’s Beach – approximately 50 kilometres east of Albany.
Situated on a headland just around the corner from nearby Two Peoples Bay, this small, secluded coastal hideaway was obviously discovered many years ago by local fishermen. Indeed, Betty’s Beach has for a long time been the seasonal base for salmon fishermen who gather here each year coinciding with the annual salmon run along this section of the coast. While the salmon migrate to their own timetable depending on weather conditions and water temperatures, the usual hectic activity here can be anywhere from mid-February through to April.
As you crest the hill overlooking Betty’s Beach, make sure you stop and take in the breathtaking view – it’s lovely. Dominated by huge granite boulders interspersed with white sandy beaches, this is indeed a picturesque spot… any wonder the salmon call in here to have a look!
The sheltered beachfront is peppered with a collection of ramshackle fishermen’s huts in varying states of disrepair. During ‘salmon season’ the whole area is closed off for camping, but outside that short period Betty’s Beach takes on an almost abandoned look with only a few campers pitching their tents or backing their campervans or caravans into flat spaces between the shacks. There is even a flat space on the beach for a couple of 4WDs and tents – you can’t get more waterfront than that!
Depending on where the wind is coming from, you need to be a little selective at times regarding where you go swimming in the lovely clear water. For keen fishers, it’s a great spot to wet a line from the beach or off the rocks where, apart from salmon, the main catches include snapper, whiting, flathead and flounder. Whales can be spotted in the area, usually between July and October.
Back in the camping area, it’s a free for all. Just pick a flat spot and set up camp. The area, however, is quite small with space for only around six units – best suited to tents, campervans, camper-trailers or small caravans. There is little space to manoeuvre big rigs here unless the place is almost empty. This is a free-camping site and when it’s full (mostly school holiday time) you’ll need to look elsewhere – perhaps at nearby East Bay campground or at Normans Beach.
Apart from some long-drop toilets scattered around and a few rubbish bins, there are no other facilities provided at Betty’s Beach. Out of courtesy, please don’t intrude into the fishermen’s shacks and respect their need to close off the area during their commercial salmon fishing activities.
Betty’s Beach was named after Betty Poole, a regular early visitor to this spot dating back to the 1930s… long before any formal roads opened up general access to the area.
Betty’s Beach is a sheer delight. You can even use it as a base to visit surrounding areas or to just chill out and relax for a couple of days.
GETTING THERE: Betty’s Beach is just over 50km east of Albany on the WA south coast. Turn off the South Coast Highway approximately 30km from Albany onto Homestead Road, go past the turn to Normans Beach and turn onto Betty’s Beach Road. Follow it for approximately 10km to the end of the road at Betty’s Beach.
CAMPING: Just pick a flat spot between the fishermen’s shacks.
Generators are permitted, but keep in mind courtesy (i.e. noise) to other campers.
BYO gas/fuel for cooking; water; and all supplies.
Dogs are allowed, under control.
Facilities extend to long-drop toilets and bins.
RATES: Free camping. No disabled facilities.
Nearest main supplies and services are at Albany.
DRIVING: Betty’s Beach is accessible to all vehicles. Big rigs may have difficulty manoeuvring in the small campground area.
WHEN TO GO: Best in late spring, summer and early autumn. Can be cold and wet in winter. Avoid mid-February to early April as the area is closed for camping and taken over by commercial salmon fishermen.