Valentine's Day doesn't have to be all roses and candlelit dinners—in Australia's southern capital, there is many a way to celebrate the most passionate day of the year.
Start The Day High
Being dragged out of bed before dawn may not sound like a lot of fun, but when it leads to a sunrise flight and champagne flutes, there'll be kisses all around. Global Ballooning's hot-air soirees over Melbourne city, offer a unique way to see the sights, with sweeping views of the beautiful parks and the Melbourne Cricket Ground. For anyone nervous about heights, there's the option to snuggle into the basket; $327 a person, including a one-hour flight and champagne breakfast.
Show Your Cheeky Side
Sexy lingerie is part and parcel for Valentine's Day, but this is a different spin on an old theme. Don some jocks or a bikini, then show another side to the general public. Cupid's Undie Run, being held by the bay in St. Kilda, is a one-mile charity dash that raises money for the Children's Tumour Foundation. Last year, the runners and their sponsors raised more than $125,000 ($35 entry fee).
Merrily We Row Along
Change the pace by dressing up in bowler hats and bowties, and reminiscing about another time. At Fairfield Boathouse, in a bucolic bushland setting by the Yarra River, yet only 15 minutes from the Central Business District, lovers can float aimlessly together, The Notebook-style. Hand-built rowing skiffs, crafted along the lines of the boats used on the Thames in the 19th century, are available to hire by the hour; $26 for the first hour, $5 for each hour thereafter.
Garden Party For Two
The 14 acres of lush gardens, established in 1868, making up Rippon Lea Estate have plenty of places for amoureux to find some privacy. Pack a basket of delicacies and a bottle of wine and find a spot by the lake, beneath the trees or in the soaring fernery, for an afternoon of sunshine. The estate, now protected by Australia's National Trust, is about four miles from the city center; $7 a person for admission to the gardens.
For paramours looking to impress a sweetheart, the High Tea at the Langham Melbourne's Aria Lounge is sure to do the trick. Plates of dainty sandwiches, scones with dollops of clotted cream and jam, and sweet treats (including a chocolate fountain) will earn extra brownie points for the Valentine who books a table for two; $59 a person.
Drinks and Dinner With a Difference
There's no need to cave to the cheesy tropes often accompanying dinner on Valentine's Day. Start with a sunset drink atop the roof at Bomba Bar, on Lonsdale Street, overlooking plane trees and city skyline, before taking a 10-minute stroll through the city to Swanston Street and Choo Choo's. This quirky spot serving contemporary Thai dishes is designed to resemble an elegant, old-world train carriage. The best tables are the booths with doors that slide across to close off couples from the world outside. Summon the waiter using a buzzer when the urge for another cocktail strikes. Dinner at Choo Choo's is about $42 for two, excluding drinks.
Magic At The Moonlight
Make the most of the warm night by finding a patch of lawn in the Royal Botanic Gardens for Moonlight Cinema. As the sun sinks below the horizon and the crickets begin chirping, spread out a blanket for what is sure to be a classic romance. A Gold Grass ticket is Moonlight's premier experience, with bean beds in one of the best viewing areas, and hosts to take orders for food and drinks. Tickets #13, Gold Grass tickets $24.
The Couple That Walks Together...
Head west from Melbourne and discover one of Victoria's greatest tourist attractions, the Great Ocean Road, which runs 150 miles from the surf town of Torquay to Allansford. A popular route for drivers, the charms of its wild coastline and deserted beaches are even more evident for those who go off road and take to the dedicated hiking trails. Raw Travel runs regular three-day Great Ocean Walks, including one on the Valentine's Day weekend. Spend the days exploring the magnificent landscape, then enjoy excellent food and two nights in a luxury cabin after the sun goes down. Cost about $800 a person, including accommodation, meals, guided walk, and transfers from Melbourne.