Firstly, for regular EPLT fans, now that I live in Sydney, I don’t intend on writing content like this about Melbourne, unless it’s travel-related. However, this Melbourne date ideas post was half-written from a time when I still lived in Melbourne. Since landing in Sydney, it’s been collecting dust in the unpacked boxes in the garage, and it felt wrong to give it to Vinnies. So I’ve polished it up and finished it off. Enjoy…
Huzzband Jude and I are long past the dating stage. In fact, when I think back to our early dates, the memories are crackly, in black and white, and with no sound. So I had to bribe a friend to divulge their go-to Melbourne date spots to woo the ladies. Forgive me Dushan for sharing your preferred venues of dating for the benefit of single Melbourne.
Here are 11 Christmas cracker Melbourne date ideas that aren’t your usual ‘let’s meet for drinks’:
1. A picnic in the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne
Reliable, right? Like Mum asking you whether you’re eating enough vegetables. It’s a date idea you can count on. Sitting back in the lush Royal Botanic Gardens on a plaid picnic rug, swigging from a bottle of cab sav – it screams book a celebrant now. Yep, this one’s a real winner.
Melbourne’s version of Downton Abbey, Rippon Lea House and Gardens, is just as good a picnicking spot, if not a little bit fancier. Note: there’s an entry fee at Rippon Lea House and booze isn’t allowed.
2. Hike the 1000 steps walking trail
I did question this one. Is it really attractive when you’re huffing and puffing so bad you could blow the whole house down? Because this is what I’m like after trekking the 2.6-kilometre Kokoda Track Memorial Walk – all 1000 steps. But Dushan assures me that it’s sexy to engage in some (platonic) physical activity with a prospective partner, and I do agree. I vaguely remember loving dates that were action-packed vs the ‘let’s have drinks, maybe dinner’ dates. WTF is maybe dinner anyway? How does a girl plan for maybe dinner?
3. Go horse riding in Daylesford
My weakness for action-adventure probably explains why I once thought that horse riding was the golden ticket to organising a first date. Riding horseback, side-by-side, maybe even a little hand-holding. How romantic does that sound?
This was all until, a few years ago, Jude decided to shut up my decade-long horse riding rant and actually took me horse riding. It was at Hepburn Lagoon Trail Rides in Daylesford where I realised that I’m as coordinated as pairing stripes with spots. I haven’t been horse riding since (you can read why here). Although I still stand by the fact that this is a great date idea – you just have to be coordinated.
4. Learn to surf
While there may be no sound, I do remember my first date with Jude. He offered to teach me to surf – I loved the idea. It’s what convinced me he was the real deal. It’s also what convinced me to never get on a surfboard again.
Unless you’re Jude Law and think you’re Kelly Slater, get the professionals to show you how it’s done. Surf Sessions, Go Ride a Wave and Apollo Bay Surf and Kayak are all great at teaching novices to surf.
5. Turn into a big ball of brie at Milk the Cow
Ok, a break from the outdoors adventuring. I admit, this one wasn’t on Dushan’s list, but it’s 100% where I’d take an un-suspecting date. This is because anyone who knows me knows that I’m quite obsessed with the cheese bar Milk the Cow and will look for any excuse to go there (it recently starred in my ‘11 things I miss about Melbourne’ list). But all for good reason!
With locations in both St Kilda and Carlton, Milk the Cow has 150+ different types of cheeses, 150+ different ways to eat cheese and 150+ drink choices to go with it (maybe a slight exaggeration on the last two but you get the point). Life doesn’t get much better than sitting back with a perfectly paired cheese and wine flight. It’s a unique experience, gives you something to talk about if the conversation is dying and it’s delicious. Besides, if your date is a real bore at least the cheese will make you happy.
6. See a movie at one of Melbourne’s old-school cinemas
Put a new twist on the old movie date idea by ditching Hoyts and heading to one of Melbourne’s beautiful, old worldy cinemas instead. With their Art Deco and architectural loveliness, the following provide the perfect backdrop for love to blossom: The Rivoli (Hawthorn East), The Astor Theatre (St Kilda), The Sun Theatre (Yarraville) and Palace Westgarth (Northcote).
7. Uncover the bar in a freezer at Boston Sub
If dates were footwear, the ‘let’s meet for drinks date’ would be a pair of Ugg Boots: comfortable and boring. So if you’re going to be boring, at least make it a cracker of a bar, and you don’t get much better than a bar in a freezer. Walking in off Chapel Street in Windsor, Boston Sub doesn’t look much more than a greasy alternative to Subway, but walk through the freezer door and a secret tiki cocktail bar awaits. It will blow your date’s mind.
8. A soak at Peninsula Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula
For something a little different – and intimate – head to Peninsula Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula. There’s 20 different outdoor, heated, natural mineral pools that you can soak in, plus a cave pool, sauna, spa treatments and reflexology walk. It’s the perfect place to relax and ponder your suitability as a couple.
Finish off the date by calling into the cellar door at Port Phillip Estate. For $38 you can have a three-course lunch that you and your date will be raving about for days.
9. Prove how cultured you are at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
The NGV is like three dates in one, Dushan tells me. Go for a burn around the gallery admiring the current art exhibitions, stop for high tea in The Tea Room and then finish up by watching a live gig in the Great Hall (Fridays only).
If you’re feeling brave you can even go for a pash underneath the stained glass ceiling.
10. Set out on a wine tour of the Yarra Valley
Arranging a wine tour of the Yarra Valley is a serious commitment. It’s definitely not a ‘drinks and maybe dinner’ kind-of date, so you probably want to make sure that you can handle a good eight hours with the person. There’s no escape route with this one. No ‘emergency phone call from the friend’ or ‘spilled drink in the lap’.
Cons aside, taking a date on an excursion to wine country could be as enjoyable as a glass of Penfolds Grange. The countryside is beautiful, the wine tasting fun and lots of time to get to know one another.
11. Bond over mini golf at Holey Moley
Set the par high with a date at Holey Moley – a mini golf course-slash-cocktail bar. Found on Little Bourke Street in the city, this venue of fun is a second-date clincher fo’ sure. That’s providing you don’t go all hyper competitive and insist on re-tallying the scores for the fifth time, just to quintuple check you didn’t win.
Share your go-to date ideas for the benefit of Melbourne below.