Family Matters

Taking a sea plane to Whitehaven Beach during your family holiday to Hamilton Island

Taking a sea plane to Whitehaven Beach during your family holiday to Hamilton Island

Travelling with a family puts a completely different spin on things, says travel veteran and mother, Catriona Rowntree – but on Hamilton Island she feels right at home.

STORY: Allison Tait PHOTOGRAPHY: Andrea Francolini, Jason Loucas and Dick Sweeney

Catriona Rowntree knows a great holiday destination when she sees one. As a presenter on Channel 9’s Getaway program for nearly 15 years, she has visited just about every hot spot and chill-out zone in the world. And yet, there’s one place to which she keeps returning.

“I have a long and happy history with Hamilton Island,” she says, on the phone from her property near Geelong, west of Melbourne, where she lives with husband James Pettit, and 16-month-old son Andrew.

“During the time I’ve been with Getaway, I’ve seen its personality change, evolve and blossom.”

Catriona’s Top 5 Tips for Travelling with Littlies

  • If you have a little baby on the plane, remember they need to suck on something when the plane goes up and down. Little ears do hurt.
  • Try and book a seat in the very back row or a window.
  • If possible, take the bed sheets from home from the night before, so they always have the smell of home around them.
  • Be very loose with your arrangements.
  • Don’t stress about what you don’t have. The sky won’t fall in if you’ve forgotten sun cream. Essentially, remember this is your holiday. Enjoy the moment!

Aside from work commitments – the most recent visit saw Catriona play a round at Hamilton Island’s new 18-hole golf course for the cameras – she’s holidayed on the island on her own, recommended it to friends for romantic weekends and family holidays, and taken her own little family to enjoy time together on the island. “I have a friendship with Hamilton Island that’s both personal and professional,” she laughs.

She admits that taking Andrew on holiday has opened her eyes to a new view of the island. “It does make you see things differently,” she says. “For me, the joy is that I feel that my child is within a safe environment. Then there’s the weather…

I’ve been there in all seasons and even if it’s raining I can get about in thongs – it’s still mild. After moving to Victoria, I find that heavenly!”

Her most important message to other parents, however, is this: “It’s one direct flight,” she says, with glee. “That’s nice when you don’t have children, but it’s music to a parent’s ears. To know that you don’t have to get in the car or in another boat or on another small flight…”

When choosing a family holiday destination, Catriona looks for one thing: service. “In my experience, you can have the ritziest location, but if you don’t have service then you have nothing,” she says. “I’ve seen it. On Hamilton Island, however, one single family (the Oatley family) is applying their passions and knowledge to their guests, and it’s beautiful.”

One area in which she believes the island excels is in babysitting. “I’ve experienced extraordinary babysitters on Hamilton Island as part of my work with The Australian Ballet (Catriona is MC for the Pas de Deux Australian Ballet events),” she says. “For a lot of mothers, it’s important to know that you have that option and that you feel safe with the choice made.”

She likes the fact that the first-class babysitters also make it relatively easy for parents to enjoy couple and/or solo time during a family holiday. “Many mothers may not feel comfortable letting other people mind their children,” she says. “But I do recommend the babysitters on the island. I believe that one of the greatest gifts I can give my child is that his parents have a loving relationship. If you have the option to spend time together, why not go for it?”

Given the number of activities available on the island for all ages, it’s no surprise that Catriona nominates that as another tick for its being the ‘ultimate family holiday destination’. From tennis lessons for the kids to mini golf for the whole family, everyone is catered for. The Clownfish Club is the island’s kids club and offers activities for children aged six weeks to 14 years, while the use of watercraft such as catamarans, paddle skis and snorkelling equipment is free when staying in many accommodation types. For most kids, big and small, just getting around is enough fun.

Catriona Rowntree during Pas de Deux in Paradise at qualia

Catriona Rowntree during Pas de Deux in Paradise at qualia

“Andrew really loves the golf buggies used to get around the island,” laughs Catriona. “And I prefer knowing that there’s a buggy doing the rounds than a zooming car.”

In the future, she’s looking forward to trying out different activities with her son – and her new baby, due in March 2011. “Checking out koalas, face painting, the kids club,” she says. “Going on little expeditions out to different beaches, sampling different pools… the list goes on!”

One thing she probably won’t be doing, despite her story for Getaway, is playing a round of golf.

“I’ve proved I have a talent for near-misses of people’s heads with my golf balls,” she laughs. “But what I loved about Hamilton Island Golf Club is that there’s a fabulous restaurant and bar in the Clubhouse. It’s really popular, so book ahead. And if you are there to play golf, take a lot of balls!”

It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed Catriona’s career on Getaway that she is also enamoured of the new Spa wumurdaylin.

“It’s extraordinary,” she enthuses. “My only tip is to book early.”

When it comes to accommodation, Catriona has, as she puts it, “pretty much done the lot on the island”. She agrees that the Reef View Hotel is great for families, even more so now with the new Reef Family Rooms, which provide the convenience of a main room containing two queen beds and an adjoining room with two single beds, perfectly suited for young children. The Palm Bungalows are also a great option for smaller families – and when staying in either, children aged 0-12 qualify for the ‘Kids Stay and Eat Free’ program. Complimentary cots are are also available on request, if required.

She has directed a lot of her ‘couple’ friends to the Beach Club mostly, she says, “because you don’t have to feel guilty about never leaving the hotel.”

qualia, she says, is simply extraordinary and should be experienced. “Even if you only stay one night out of your holiday, it’s a beautiful place,” she says. “I love the library there.”

Or, the new Hamilton Island Yacht Club Villas really are the last word in luxury self-catering accommodation for the family. Sitting overlooking Dent Passage with the Yacht Club and all its facilities as well as Front Street a stone’s throw away, it really doesn’t get any better for the ultimate family getaway!

Having said that, she also mentions the other self-contained accommodation options, such as the Hamilton Island Holiday Homes, and loves that that option is also available on the island, particularly given the easy access to the general store, the chemist and other services. “It’s all there for you,” she says.

Music to any parent’s ears.

To find out more about the options available to you for your Hamilton Island family holiday, contact Hamilton Island Holidays on 137 333 (02 9433 0444), email or visit

The Above Article was originally published in the January 2011 Edition of REEF Magazine