Getaway host Catriona Rowntree reveals her best travel tips and most surprising destination

In 2020, Catriona Rowntree notches up 24 years globetrotting at the helm of Nine's Getaway travel program. She is the envy of many who explore Australian and international destinations vicariously through her and her fellow presenters Charli Robinson, David Reyne, and Jason Dundas.

For avid travellers, she and her colleagues provide helpful tips on where to shop, what to see, how to get from place to place and where to eat, among other suggestions.

But this dream job didn't just land in her lap. She knew what she wanted to do from the age of 14 and had an amazing headmaster who her encouraged her. "You just have to have one person in your corner to have faith in you," the 48-year-old says. "I wanted to be the next Jana Wendt."

After attaining a Diploma of Journalism at Macleay College in 1990, Rowntree earned her stripes by starting at the bottom.

Her first foray into television was an audition for Wonder World in 1992 - along with 8000 other hopefuls.

"[It was] the hardest job interview/audition I've ever done. It went for hours and all of my childhood speech and drama training came to the fore. I got to the final five girls but I missed out. So I begged to be a researcher [on the show], which is the hardest job I've done. But the girl they chose over me didn't work out so they gave me one shot."

She had to report on, and take part in, a putt putt golf tournament, which she won, and scored the job.

"What I like about sharing my story is, if I can do it anyone can. I'm not a model, I didn't know anyone in the industry."

She says the show had almost no budget. "We had to do almost everything, our own hair, makeup, wardrobe. I had to write my own stuff, but if I hadn't had that, and my years in community radio where you do everything - all those skills add up.

"Once you're on, you have got to stay on," she says. What's up Doc, a cartoon show filmed on weekends at Nine's Melbourne studios, was her first hosting job, while she was also host of Triple J's Weekend Request radio show. Working a seven day week - and loving it - Rowntree says she always knew something great would come along.

In 1996, she heard rumours of a new travel show and called an executive at channel Nine for a meeting. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rowntree still puts her name up for opportunities. "If I really look at my life now, unintentionally I have mastered the work-life balance. I found out the one thing you can't plan - I accidentally fell in love with a hot farmer and moved to the country. But my wonderful boss John Walsh said, 'as long as you can get to the airport I don't care where you live'.

"But I constantly have to show I can deliver. I just started back filming a domestic trip in Victoria. That was easy. I work with a wonderful female producer who has two children the same age as mine and she worked the schedule so I could still do the school drop off. And my next overseas stint for Getaway will be enough to keep me on air for ages. As much as I would love to do live TV, Getaway is recorded in advance, so I can work in blocks."

She finds it hard to nominate one favourite destination but says she was surprised by how much she loved Bordeaux. "I'm not a big red wine drinker but I loved Normandy. I went once with my mum and did the history and the second time with my friend, and we shopped till we dropped. The toughest part is flight over."

Deservedly, Rowntree is proud of her longevity in an industry not lauded for it. "I've been able to fulfill my goal which was for longevity. I remember walking into the car park at Nine and I saw Liz Hayes and Ray Martin, and I think Tracey Grimshaw too, chatting together. I thought I want that. I'm a great believer that you don't do everything for the money, that everything will flow. Even though I know everyone says 'I could do that', the most important thing is to get along with people, and being a respectful traveller.

Language has never been a problem for her. "No matter where I go, it's both fun and respectful to learn a few words, as long as you show people you have tried."

Driving doesn't present a problem for her either. "I absolutely love to drive - once you learn the statistics on your chances of kicking the bucket at home as opposed to abroad, you throw everything into it.

This busy woman has also written three books. "The best advice I was given, because I had a hang up about not having gone to uni, was 'just write like you talk'." She also approached Target to design travel goods. I was pregnant at the time, and they said 'no we're family oriented, but can you design baby clothes?', so I did for about three years."

She is also a brand ambassador for Australian Wool Innovation, Nature's Way, Travel Card, Brisbane International and Domestic Airports and Scoopon. "They're all a natural fit, I love travel, good health and, being married to a farmer, supporting regional Australia. I try to wear wool as much as I can, it's sustainable, it doesn't crush, it's the ultimate fibre and we produce best in the world. I've got to be fit and healthy in this job, you don't get a sick day, you have to put the work in to maintain a good weight.

The drought and bushfires have hit many towns that have been featured on Getaway. "I've had a really discombobulated summer doing all I could to raise funds for areas affected by drought. I have cousins in Walgett and family from Longreach. We have to support those around us. A lot of people wonder how can they help, and I'm lucky to have this amazing platform to show people different locations where they should be plan to spend holidays and point them to unique treasures they can find at Buyfromthebush.

One of the other things she loves about her job is sharing the stories of passionate individuals.

"Just recently I went and did [a piece on] one of the world's first surf parks right next to Melbourne Airport. It's called URBNSURF. To watch people riding a wave, with planes going overhead, and all the camera gear next to me was amazing. I'm inspired by individuals creating unbelievable experiences for travellers. It just takes one passionate individual. People are extending their time between flights and local Victorians head there when the surf is flat along the Great Ocean Road. It's booked solid, and they are planning a new one each year for the next 10 years."

Her best tip for travelling - "Don't take away anything you would be upset to lose, I kick myself when I lose things. So always have good travel insurance."

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