Phil Keoghan, long-time host of The Amazing Race, brought the show home to New Zealand in Season 22, right to the South Island region where he was born and raised. Learn about Phil and his favorite New Zealand spots in this Q&A exclusive for newzealand.com.
What was it like bringing the show back to New Zealand? We love having you!
This is our fourth time back to New Zealand for The Amazing Race but the first time we have spent quality time in my home town, Christchurch. I felt tremendous pride being able to share Canterbury with not only the crew, but of course the millions of people around the world who will see what a special place we have. Places are about people and I was beaming with pride as we made our way from challenge to challenge. I even got to fit in a brief visit to my parents when I was home and took my team in for a cup of tea and scones.
What was your favorite challenge for the contestants?
The Shemozzle Race was so much fun and a great way for the teams to immerse themselves in a challenge that showed off the adventurous Kiwi spirit. Lots of humor of course and sheep dogs. How could we miss mud, molasses, chicken feathers, a slide and raw eggs - the perfect ingredients for a good time. The driving challenge and jet boats were two sports that I shot in my first days in television back in the mid-1980s when we covered the Ashley Forest Rally Races and the Jet Boat Sprints. Shooting 12 episodes of The Amazing Race in 21 days, there is a lot of luck involved - we are constantly thinking about the weather, flight schedules, so many things and when things come together and the teams have a fantastic time it really is a wonderful feeling.
Why is New Zealand a great destination for American travelers?
It’s great because New Zealand is so unique and also because we really love hosting North Americans. What I hear from so many visitors is that they love the people. New Zealanders really do like sharing their home with visitors. My parents are a perfect example - my Mum and Dad opened a bed and breakfast in Rolleston, really because they wanted to meet visitors. The fact is that all New Zealanders have that kind of enthusiasm for people who make the effort to travel to our country.
What do Americans not know about New Zealand that you think they should?
That it's closer than they think. A lovely meal and glass of wine on Air New Zealand, maybe a movie, then a sleep, wake up and you're there. I actually find flying from Los Angeles to New York a longer trip because I don't sleep. I love that we have opposite seasons, so if you want to escape a cold North American winter you can have some lovely long days in a New Zealand summer.
What are your New Zealand must dos?
• Enjoying a Pinot Noir
• Eating a traditional Kiwi lamb dinner
• Watching a game of rugby
• A farm visit
• Trying some Bluff Oysters
• Visit the Wild Foods Festival in Hokitika
• Going bungy jumping
• Taking a jet boat ride
• Swimming with dolphins
• Kayaking Abel Tasman National Park
• Eating a Peanut Slab (local candy bar)
• Taking on rapids white water rafting
• Vegemite on toast
• New Zealand Cheddar
• Rolling downhill in a Zorb
• Sailing in Auckland Harbor
• Hiking the Milford Track
• Heli Skiing
• New Chums Beach
• Tasting raw scallops
• Crayfish from Nins Bins in Kaikoura
• Kiwi coffee
• White bait patties with lemon and vinegar
What were your favorite New Zealand vacation spots growing up?
The West Coast of the South Island is where I spent many of my school holidays as my grandparents lived in Westport. My parents were really good about sharing this special part of New Zealand and of course there's nothing like having family to visit. For the past 20 years or so I have been visiting the Coromandel, it really is a unique part of the world. There are a lot of New Zealanders who still don’t know that much about it so I'm constantly talking up its world class beaches, native forest and fresh seafood.
Is there anywhere The Amazing Race hasn't been in New Zealand that you would like to go?
One day I would like to get us to New Chums beach, it has been voted one of the top ten beaches in the world by Lonely Planet, Rough Guide and the London Observer. You can only get there by taking a 30 minute walk along the coast then crossing over a small hill covered in native forest. Walking through the trees, it's like going through the back of the wardrobe to see another world. I've been lucky enough to see a lot of beaches in my life but New Chums is at the top of my list.
The Amazing Race continues to be a critical and ratings success, a tough feat for a television show. Why does everyone love the show?
I wish I was an expert in knowing what makes a television show a success. The Amazing Race started with a great concept from Elise Doganieri that evolved into a captivating television show seen in hundreds of countries around the world. I would like to think that because The Amazing Race has stuck with quality choices, great casting, exciting destinations and fun challenges, that we have earned the loyalty of viewers who know they are getting entertainment that has not resorted to exploitation to keep people watching. The Amazing Race epitomizes the meaning of collaboration and I am very grateful to be part of a very talented team.