Ballarat is every small town rolled into one, plus a pretty cool Art Gallery. Everyone knows everyone, is related to everyone, and if you ever bump into someone you've never seen it's probably because they're a tourist from Melbourne.
So how, in this intimate social bubble-bath, are you expected to find a date? Like most things, the answer can be found via Google.
So many to choose from - will you find The One? Image from Wikimedia Commons
Once the domain of the strange and friendless, on-line dating is now common, with over one third of couples meeting on line. Not only that, these relationships report higher levels of satisfaction and are less likely to end in divorce (source: Forbes Magazine).
Still not convinced? Consider this: On a night out to your local pub, there will be approximately, say, 200 people present. If you are heterosexual, you can reduce your pool of potentials by half straight away. Then take out everyone outside your age range, then everyone already in a relationship, and then everyone who contains a massive dealbreaker (perhaps smoker status, children or religion) - what are you left with? Not a lot, that's for sure - and you may not even like what's left.
Online dating does the hard yards for you, presenting you only with the best possible matches. You already know they're single, and you know they're looking for someone just like you.
There's only one question left - with so many dating sites available, which do you choose? Whether by accident or design many of the main sites have developed their own niche customer base, so choose your site, get clicking, and soon you'll be heading out in Melbourne for what could be a date with the love of your life.
Here are the basics: OKCupid is for geeky types eHarmony is for age 30-plus RSVP is for anyone and everyone Tinder (app store) if you just want heterosexual carnal knowledge (though there is the rare story of true love being found by swiping right)
Grindr (app store) for the above, but homosexual
Obviously the above is only a hearsay-based guide, but it's something to keep in mind before you throw yourself into it!
Safety This is the big one. How do you know if your potential parter is the real deal? Fortunately, the internet can be used for you as well as against. Before you make contact with someone, Google your heart out. Check for a LinkedIn profile, image-search their profile pictures, and of course try Facebook. Remember though, once you've verified your potential love as the real deal, it's time to switch off the screen and get to know them outside of cyberspace.
Although your nerves might be up, don't drink too much. And whether or not you believe in old-fashioned dating traditions, be sure to arrive with enough money on your to not only pay for your meal but also get your own taxi home. Know the location of a nice nearby bar in case dinner goes well and you'd like to extend the date, but also have an 'out' prepared if you need that too.
Where to meet
A public meeting-place is essential, not only for an easy trip there and home, but if their appearance (or anything else) doesn't match up with their profile, you can hot-foot it out of there.
What to do
I'm a diehard art gallery fan, and Ballarat boasts one of the best in the state. Be a tourist for the day and check out the exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ballarat - and don't forget to pat Tyger.
Unless your date is from out of town and the weather is decent, don't go to Sovereign Hill. If you've grown up in Ballarat, chances are you spent at least half of your life traipsing around in the dust, dodging horse poo and trying in vain to bake a decent scone. If your date is also a Ballarat local they will also have been here more than enough for one lifetime.
Lake Wendouree is an underrated and easily accessible place for a casual date. Take some fish and chips, avoid getting snapped at by the swans, explore the kiddie playground or just sit and watch the world go by. You can also head over to the Botanical Gardens and wind your way through the trees.
If you're after something more adrenalin-pumping, look around for go-karting, paintballing, or even horse-riding. Sharing a new experience is a great way to get to know someone and find out what makes them tick.
When the days are rainy and cold, keep it casual and comfortable with a drink and shared meal at the Java Lounge Cafe.
The paintball date with the ever-sexy Heath Ledger. movie: Ten Things I Hate About You
What is your experience with online dating? What would be your ideal first date?