As someone who is perpetually broke and has recently moved to Melbourne, I’ve had the opportunity to discover this beautiful city one date at a time…and on a budget. Who said men can’t multitask? Sure, I was drunk for half of them, but I’m poor. What else am I going to do for fun?

Anyway, now that you guys know that being a professional hot mess is my full-time job, I’m going to tell you some of the best places to have a date in Melbourne….on a budget.

I don’t know if my Asian father’s genes have finally kicked in, but as the years have passed, I have become very frugal with how I spend my money. However, something that hasn’t changed is my desire to go out and have a good time. And my idea of a good time usually includes wine, which leads me to my first date idea…

1. A Picnic In Carlton Gardens

Grab yourself some bubbles and an abundance of snacks, because Carlton Gardens is a popular picnic and barbeque spot that’s perfect for a budget date. The park itself is heritage listed and hosts numerous types of wildlife, including both the bushtail possum AND people who think they can play the guitar but really shouldn’t. With roaming green gardens, tennis courts, the Melbourne Museum, the super pretty Royal Exhibition Building and a big ass fountain that you can recreate the ‘Friends’ intro in (for legal reasons, this is a joke), there’s plenty to see and do. There’s even an Imax cinema in the park, so, if you run out of bubbles or questions to ask your date, you can always do that. This park has so much to offer, it’s a #TrueVers.

2. Get Cultured At The National Gallery Of Victoria

You know how people always say that size doesn’t matter? Well, this place could say that size is the only thing that matters, because NGV is absolutely packing. Filled to the brim with thought provoking art and an abundance of Instagram opportunities, you could be caught inside all day. Fair warning: do your leg stretches and eat a meal beforehand, because it is big, and you will need to take breaks. Pro tip: try to go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. And sometimes when its busy, booking your free ticket online will save you a lot of time at the door.

3. Explore The Royal Botanic Gardens

Just across the road from the NGV, there lies the Botanic Gardens, filled with a vast array of plant collections and landscapes. My personal favourite would be the arid garden, which showcases many cacti and exotic desert plants, it really made me feel like I was somewhere dry… like my DMs.

As for the best places to find a cheap and delicious/romantic date spot, I’ve also got you covered, or my nickname isn’t hungry, hungry, homo.

4. Early Bird Gets A Table At Higher Ground

This spot is a little pricier but well worth it. Famous for its Ricotta Pancakes and Crab Eggs Benny, this multi-level venue is beautiful, with high ceilings, lush indoor plants and towering windows that illuminate both the room

and your dates face. So, if your date looks nothing like their Tinder pics, grab one of their delicious coffees and dip. Booking for this spot is essential.

5. Grab An Afternoon Snack At Milk The Cow

With venues in both Carlton and St Kilda, you’ll have to drop into Milk The Cow Licensed Fromagerie (that’s a fancy name for cheese factory… Thanks, Google) because this place really is a slice of the highlife, at a fraction of the price. Boasting an array of 180 varieties of cheeses in their 6-metre-long cabinet, the venue has a lot to offer, including their cheese flights, which pair cheese with boutique beverages on a custom designed flight board. Flights come in both small and large sizes, ranging in price from $24-$45. Just make sure your date isn’t lactose intolerant, or wine won’t be the only thing that will be flowing.

6. Sip A Drink At Rooftop Bar

Located on the busy Swanston Street, Rooftop Bar is, as the name suggests, on the rooftop of Curtin House. Escape the crowds of the city and head on up –either in the elevator, or by foot (if you wanna work on those glutes). With stunning views, salivating cocktails and super sexy happy hour prices, you’ll be on your way to sexy time in no time. Stare romantically into your date’s eyes as the sun sets, but not for too long, or he’ll realise he’s paid for the last 5 rounds. Pro trip: Bring a jacket.

7. Winner, Winner Vegan Dinner At Red Sparrow Pizza

Melbourne’s first ALL vegan pizzeria is mouth-watering. Situated in Collingwood, the delicious wood fired pizzas that are sure to please your date and your taste buds. It’s super cheap and cruelty free. Now, that’s a spicy meat ball.


Wait, So You're Into Guys Now, Too? | Opinion


Interview with Deni Todorovic


About Author

Walton Wong

Meet Walton Wong - a 28-year-old, Melbourne-based part-time writer and full-time hot mess.

He is a homebody at heart who enjoys binge eating, drinking cocktails, and memorising the words to real housewife fights, often simultaneously.

Walton is originally from Papua New Guinea, which means he brings a unique – and welcomed – perspective to the Gay’s Guide team.

Please head to our contact page if you’d like to share feedback on A Modern Gay’s Guide or pitch a story that you’d like us to cover.