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Summer means longer days, warm nights and plenty of excellent options to save some cash when it comes to dating. But cheap doesn’t have to mean scrimping on substance – here are our picks for some thrifty-yet-fun summertime dates.

Get takeaway at sunset

Get the most out of those warm summer evenings by opting for takeaway instead of dine-in. With so many fantastic restaurants still doing takeout post-lockdown in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, the world is your (literal) oyster. Grab your favourite cuisine and set up camp with your date on a beach, atop a hill in a park, or anywhere with an amazing view of the sunset. If this is one of your first dates, it’s the perfect low-key environment to get to know someone. There’s no pressure of a waiter constantly checking in on you, or worse, feeling like everyone can tell you’re on a date.

Go for a boozy picnic

Picnics are a classic date option for a reason – it really doesn’t get much more romantic than cosying up next to someone on a blanket under a leafy tree, glass of wine in hand. Level up with stylish picnicware, and opt for platters over sandwiches and bottled cocktails over classic champers. Another tip: do the assembling at the park. Pick somewhere private and leafy, then throw in some cards or a board game for added fun if the conversation dries up. (We love Reflex by Flex Mami.) Here are some of our fave spots in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Sydney.

Head out on a bushwalk

If you’re both the active type, why not become one with nature – and each other. Pick a track that is simple, well-marked and not too strenuous. The last thing you want on a date is a) to get lost, and b) not be able to talk to each other because you’re huffing and puffing. A walk along a river or the ocean means you’ll be able to stop off for a quick dip, too. Here are some of our fave trails in Melbourne and Sydney.

Enjoy an evening swim

Nothing screams summer more than an evening dip. So why not grab your towel (and your date) and head to a local swim spot at twilight? The crowds of the afternoon will be gone, and the temps on the sand far more bearable. Just make sure you and your date are competent swimmers – lifeguards usually pack up around dusk, so it’s a good idea to stay in the shallows. This secluded Sydney beach is a gem.

Create an outdoor movie night

Want a twist on the old “Netflix and chill”? Take advantage of warmer evenings by picking a secluded outdoor spot like your backyard or even your local park, setting up your laptop and doing your next movie night in the great outdoors. This is another excellent option to tack onto a picnic, if you want to let the afternoon hangs roll into the night.

Have a fancy summertime barbeque

We’re all aware of those flat-topped, silver barbeques at Aussie parks and beaches, but while it’s common to spot families throwing a few snags on post-swim, there’s no rule that says you can’t whip up a gourmet seafood dinner, too. Pack a well-iced esky with marinated prawns, fish skewers – even scallops – and team an afternoon dip with a luxe seafood dinner that won’t break the bank. One small silver lining of coronavirus: high-quality Aussie seafood, usually intended for export, is now available at major supermarkets at a good price. Feeling fancy? Order some topnotch NSW oysters – delivery is available to many postcodes on the east coat of Australia.

Meander through the markets

Most cities have weekend markets, and the busy atmosphere makes for a perfect casual date. Pick a market that has lots of food stalls so you can grab some breakfast or lunch and sit out in the summer sun afterwards. It’s a completely chill environment and you can both break the ice by doing some people-watching while you’re there. Here are some of our fave markets in Adelaide, Perth and Sydney.

Spend time stargazing

If you’ve left the organising to the very last minute, stargazing is a great off-the-cuff idea that’s cheap, romantic and ideal for a balmy summer night. You’ll need to find a spot with low light pollution (city lights diminish visibility) – so going bush is ideal, but on a clear evening your backyard can work in a pinch. If you’re making more of a plan, check out your state’s official parks website for local dark-sky parks (areas with low light pollution that allow for the best stargazing).