So you’re coming to our wedding…
First of all, yay! We are so excited to share this special weekend with you. If you are traveling from far away to be there with us, that just makes it even more memorable! We want you to have an amazing time not just on the day, but for the rest of your stay in Australia. So here is your guide to having an amazing time down under – we can’t wait to see you! For those of you who are frequent travelers, bear with me, I’m including lots of details for first timers. If you are coming from Sydney, feel free to skip to the parts about Port Macquarie.
Visas and Transport
First of all, you need to purchase a ETA visa to enter Australia as a tourist – it can be easily done online and costs only $20. Get one here. If you haven’t bought your flight yet, the best airlines to look into are Virgin or Qantas, both of which have direct flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you are coming from the UK, you will most likely need to fly via Dubai (Emirates), Abu Dhabi (Etihad), or Singapore (Singapore Airlines); and make sure your flight gets you into Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney (remember, you will lose a day if coming from the USA – for example if you leave Wednesday night, you will arrive Friday morning). From the airport you can catch a cab (but be aware that they are costly in Sydney) or catch the train into the city (going towards Central). If you aren’t planning of staying in Sydney, you can get a domestic flight from one of the two domestic terminals (one is dedicated to Qantas and Qantas Link flights, the other is for Jetstar and Virgin) straight to Port Macquarie, the closest airport to the wedding location. If you are planning on hiring a car, here is the website for car rental companies at Sydney Airport, and if you want to hire in Port Macquarie (highly recommended, as there is minimal public transport), you can go through Avis, Thrifty, or Budget. American visitors, please note: we do drive on the left hand side of the road in Australia, and there is an abundance of roundabouts, but no such thing as a 4-way stop. Your American driver’s license will be fine, we strongly recommend getting an automatic car and purchasing insurance. For more information on road rules, driving and tolls, enquire at your car hire company.
Currency and Connectivity
The Australian currency is the Australian dollar – you can change your money at the airport, or use a bank card to withdraw Australian dollars at the ATM. For the current exchange rate, see this website or download this app. It’s a good idea to check with your bank before leaving home to let them know where you’re going, and ask about their ATM fees. Some banks offer pre-paid travel cards which you can use like a debit card, and have lower fees. You can also get a prepaid Australian sim card to use in your phone while you are there (Telstra, Optus or Virgin are the main providers – all have shops at the airport or in the city). Please be aware that reception is not great for Optus and Virgin at the wedding location, and there will not be any Wi-Fi. It can sometimes be hard to find a decent internet connection in Australia, so make sure that your accommodation offers one, or purchase a prepaid plan with a good data allowance.
Some tips for combatting jetlag: if you are only able to stay in Australia for a short time, you will want to make the most of your trip. On the flight, drink as much water as possible and avoid alcohol and caffeine (I know, I know, boring!) in order to stay hydrated. Try to sleep during the hours when it is night in Australia (get the world clock app for your phone – it’s free). Once you land, you’ll want to have a nap, but I would strongly recommend staying awake until late in the evening (and eating and drinking at normal meal times – yes that means alcohol in the evening, caffeine in the morning – you’re welcome!) to combat jetlag as swiftly as possible. Force yourself to get up and go to sleep at your normal time, Australia time; get out in the sun during the day; and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate; and you’ll be feeling much better after the first day.
Once you do allow yourself to sleep, AirBnB is your best option. However, if you aren’t comfortable with this service, there are plenty of hotels in Sydney. The best area to stay in really depends on your preferences: the Northern Beaches or Eastern Suburbs (Manly, Bondi, Bronte, Randwick, and Clovelly) are all beautiful options if you’re hoping to catch some sun, sand and salt-water. These suburbs are beautiful and they have everything you might want (cafes, shopping, restaurants etc) but it is a little tricky to get to the city center from there – a long bus, train or taxi. If you aren’t as excited about the beach, the inner city suburbs (Newtown, Surry Hills, Glebe, Ultimo and Darling Harbour) might be more your scene, and are much more accessible by public transport.
Eating and Drinking in Australia
Two things you must know when visiting Australia for the first time:
- Australia doesn’t have a “national food” (unless you count pies or fish and chips – and we took these from the Brits). The food in Australia is an amazing mix of multinational delights, with a strong Asian influence (think Thai and Vietnamese) and plenty of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes to enjoy – so be adventurous!
- Australia doesn’t have a hard and fast rule for tips. Our servers, chefs, and bar tenders are paid a decent wage ($18.50 per hour is minimum wage), so tipping is purely based on the quality of service, and is entirely optional. Expect eating out to be pricier per dollar than it is at home in the UK or USA. Drinks in particular are expensive, but the quality of food and drink is excellent. (Also, the legal drinking age in Australia is 18 – just in case you feel like you are older than usual amongst the clientele).
- The Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art (grab a classic Aussie “pub dinner” in The Rocks afterwards)
- Catching the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly or visa versa (make sure you do it on a nice day, and bring your swimmers)
- Learn to surf!!
- Snorkeling at Shelly Beach in Manly or Turramurra beach near Bondi
- Walking or biking around the Royal Botanical Gardens (for great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge)
- Enjoy some dumplings and Yum Cha or some Korean BBQ just off George Street in the CBD
- Grab some cocktails at the Shangri-La hotel cocktail lounge (those views!), seek out the underground and rooftop bars along George St, or in Surry Hills
- Taronga Zoo has some adorable wildlife and is easily accessible from circular quay by ferry or bus
- If you are staying in Manly area, the Manly to Spit bridge walk gives a beautiful coastal experience; if you are staying in the Eastern Suburbs, there is a similar walk from Bondi south to Coogee
- If you are in Sydney for more than a couple of days I highly recommend visiting the Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney. The trip takes about two hours each way by train or 90 minutes by car, and it’s a great spot for antique shops, cafes, and stunning mountain views.
Getting to Port Macquarie
Despite the many many attractions in Sydney, we do hope that at some point you will make your way north to the wedding venue. There are four options: fly from Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport to Port Macquarie Airport (approx. 1 hour); take the train from Sydney Central Station to Wauchope Station (approx. 7-8 hours); drive the highway from Sydney to Port Macquarie (approx. 4 hours); or drive the scenic route inland or along the coast from Sydney to Port Macquarie (approx. 5-8 hours depending on stops). There will be several guests who live in Sydney driving to the venue, who may have space in their car. Please contact us ASAP if you would like further information on this. We strongly recommend you hire a car either to drive to Port Macquarie or once you arrive there (see the previous section on transport), as there is limited public transport. Again, AirBnB is our recommendation for a place to stay, although we can offer limited accommodation with local friends, and limited space to camp on the property of the actual wedding venue. Please contact us ASAP if you would like further information on either of these options.
Getting from Port Macquarie to the Wedding
To be clear: the ceremony and reception will be held at Phoebe’s family home in Cooperabung, which is about half an hour’s drive north west of Port Macquarie. We will be providing a mini bus which will run from Port Macquarie to the wedding venue on the day – at the moment it seats 8, and will run hourly at the beginning and end of the day. If you think you will be using the minibus rather than driving, please let us know ASAP so we can order a larger one if necessary. We are more than happy for you to use the bus if you are local! Otherwise, it is a 20-30minute drive to the wedding venue from either Port Macquarie or Wauchope. Taxis cost upwards of $100 each way and are not recommended!!!
Port Macquarie Activities
- Visiting one of the many beautiful beaches for swimming (Town Beach), snorkeling (Shelly Beach) or surfing (Town, Flynns, Lighthouse). Just be aware of the safety recommendations regarding rip tides and surf, and always follow the instructions of the.
- The “Doctors Walk” is a beautiful scenic walk along the Port Macquarie coastline: start at Town Beach and walk south – see if you can make it to the lighthouse! Make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen!
- Pet a koala or kangaroo at Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park
- Lunch and a tree-top walk at Sea Acres Rainforest near Shelly Beach
- Go camel back riding down Lighthouse Beach!
- If you are lucky, you may catch the tail end of the whale watching season – take a boat out and see if you can spot some spouts!
- If the beach isn’t your thing, relax and enjoy a glass of local grape at Bago or Cassegrains Wineries, near Wauchope. Cassegrains also offers horseback riding tours, and Bago hosts the largest hedge maze in NSW!
- Hike up North Brother Mountain, 25 minutes south of Port Macquarie, and then go see a film at the Plaza Theatre
- For more info on accommodation, food and activities, click here.
If you would like to be put in contact with a local or another traveler for planning or saving on car hire/accommodation, please let us know! We hope you have an amazing time!!!