Getaway Star Catriona Rowntree Reflects On 30 Years in Television

“My greatest passion has always been telling other people’s stories."
Loading the player...

Catriona Rowntree once told WHO that she dreams “in French”, and as the team joins her on a stormy spring day at her home in Little River for a stroll in the garden, it is easy to see why.

Surrounded by climbing roses and with the scent of lavender lingering in the air, the TV personality has carved out her very own piece of Provence in rural Victoria.

WATCH: Behind The Scenes at Catriona Rowntree’s WHO Photoshoot

Restoring the ramshackle 1870s bluestone cottage that sits in the middle of her in-laws’ working grain and sheep station has been a labour of love for Rowntree since she packed up her life in the city and moved to the bush to wed country lad James Pettit in 2008. The pair share sons Andrew, 14, and Charlie, 12.

After 15 years of renovations, Rowntree isn’t quite done yet. The cream and dark wood kitchen is the most recent addition and she has more plans for outside.

“I’ve just come back from visiting France and there was a château that had the most amazing picking garden,” she says.

“So now my husband is really worried, terrified because I’m probably going to push the fence out onto the farm and start on that next,” she adds with a laugh.

“I think the secret is just being happy.” (Credit: Supplied)

This month marks 30 years since Rowntree made her on-screen debut in the children’s series Wonder World!

While her life has changed a lot in three decades, she looks exactly the same. Is the secret to her youthful appearance all that fresh country air in between the long-haul flights?

“I work outdoors every day so I’ve religiously put sunscreen on my face, but I definitely notice signs of ageing on the back of my arms or neck where I haven’t,” she admits. “Apart from that, I think the secret is just being happy, having fun and indulging in everything in moderation. “

Having spent decades trotting the globe on Getaway, and with her stunning home and gorgeous family to return to, Rowntree appears to live a very charmed life. But her success comes down to a lot of hard work rather than a fluke.

“I feel very strongly that Lady Luck gets a lot more kudos than she deserves,” Rowntree says. “I personally don’t believe in luck. When someone says to me that they’re lucky, I look at the sacrifices and sweat they put in and how they were brave enough to take hold of opportunities and run with it.”

Catriona made her television debut on ‘Wonder World!’ 30 years ago this November. (Credit: Supplied)

That sums up Rowntree’s journey perfectly too. As a child, she dreamed of being the next Jana Wendt, a news and current affairs stalwart. While it is hard to imagine TV without her now, there were those who advised that she shouldn’t follow her dreams.

“[At school] I had a headmistress who said I wasn’t pretty enough to be a model and I wasn’t smart enough to get into uni, so I’d never amount to anything,” she says. “I was constantly in trouble and was kicked out when I was 14 and had to change schools.”

Her new school helped to channel her excessive energy and enthusiasm into drama and performing. After graduating with her diploma in journalism, Rowntree recalls how she struggled to land a job, losing out on a cadetship at Channel Seven to Tara Brown after interning for eight months.

Taking a job as a PA with legendary publicist Max Markson, Rowntree was fired for “talking too much” in the office – though she says the pair are great mates now.
“I sent out hundreds of résumés and audition tapes and got no response,” she reveals.

“My greatest passion has always been telling other people’s stories.” (Credit: Supplied)

After three years of volunteering on community radio, Rowntree scored a role as a researcher on Wonder World! after “bugging them for months” when she failed to land an on-camera job. One day, there was no-one on hand to film a segment and Rowntree used it to show her mettle.

“I wasn’t even nervous because I knew I had one shot and this was it so I gave it everything I had,” she explains of the big moment. “I am never anyone’s first choice, but it’s OK because I don’t give up. I’ve been on camera every week since for the next 30 years.”

Her 27 years-and-counting on Getaway has seen Rowntree earn the label of “Australia’s Most Travelled Woman”. When COVID lockdowns saw the international borders shut, she pivoted, helping others find their own rural retreats on Country House Hunters in 2020.

“It was meant to last for 10 episodes but we’ve just shot our 70th!” she says. So, are there any unfulfilled dreams for the woman who appears to have been everywhere and has it all?

“My greatest passion has always been telling other people’s stories,” she explains. “So, if life hadn’t pulled me in this direction, I would have loved to have tried to be a co-host on the Today Show or Today Extra.

Related stories