There's much more to this small and unpretentious town than you might imagine, writes Elisabeth Easther.

Where is it?

In the Horowhenua District on State Highway 57, 10 minutes from Foxton and Levin, 30 minutes south of Palmerston North.

Origin of name: The town was founded on March 8, 1887 and named for George Vance Shannon, a director of the Wellington to Manawatu railway. Maori knew the place as Te Maire, after a species of tree.

Population: 1500.


Town slogan: Forty years ago, it was Shannon the Town with a Future and today there's a push to call it Water Capital of the World thanks to the power station, whitewater park and the soon to be erected waterwheel.

Town mascot: A giant water wheel to be installed when the last of the red tape is unravelled.

Old news: Shannon was founded on the flax industry and at one time there were 70 flax mills on the Manawatu River between Shannon and Foxton.

Famous locals: Joe Karam, former All Black and Bain supporter; epicure Hester Guy; Peter Lyons, swordmaker for LOTR.

In a nutshell: Shannon is a sweet little town that's perfect for eating and drinking or stopping and shopping for antiques, art, homeware and crafts.

Source of pride: The Ngati Whakatere Kapa Haka group.

Town fiestas: The Super Cheap Auto Spectacular Car Show is held each February, the Sevens always draw a crowd and the lively school stages great productions and exhibitions.

Here for a short time? The Owlcatraz Native Bird and Wildlife Park is a delight.

Another great reason to stop: Mangahao White Water Park where top athletes train to become international champions.

Best park: Te Maire Park by the railway station is perfect for picnics and just across the road from the shopping area.

Best playground: Hyde Park has a good selection of swings and slides

Best walk: Nestled in front of the Tararua Ranges, Te Araroa walkway skirts this area with most people taking on Burttons Track north of Shannon or the Mangahao-Makahika Track. Both take about six hours, with the Mangahao popping out behind Levin. The local Progressive Association offer a Sherpa service - starting at Owlcatraz the driver takes walkers in their own car, drops them off at the start of the track then picks them up at the end. Call Janette on (06) 3627872.

Best view: Heading through Shannon you'll see tourist buses parked on Ballance St with the tourists shooting down the main street, taking pictures of the impressive Tararua Range.

Time travel: You'll want to stop when the steam trains visit the historic railway station. They look amazing when they're in town, it's like travelling back in time.

Best swim: Stop at the Visitor Centre on the main street and they'll tell you where the best river swimming spots are. Otherwise there's Foxton Beach or the school swimming pool.

Best museum: Shannon Railway Station Museum and Visitor Centre. Open seven days and run by volunteers.

Nice arts: Shannon Library displays the works of local artists.

Top shop: There's loads of lovely shopping. Don't miss Legacy Antiques.

Cream of the coffee: The Olde Plum Duff Tearooms (6 Ballance Street), Horseman's Cafe (19 Plimmer Terrace) and Streetwise Coffee are excellent.

Best food: The Olde Plum Duff Tearooms are known for their award-winning pies while the slices at Streetwise are said to be scrumptious. There are two fine fish and chip shops in Shannon, too.

Wet your whistle: The Club Hotel (2 Ballance Street) is a historic gem. Built in 1888 it burned down in 1901 and was rebuilt in 1917. Back in the day, the rowdy drinkers would be dunked in the horse troughs outside. This doesn't happen today.

Best adventure: The hunting and fishing is excellent.

Best kept secret: Many people come to this small rural town with no expectations and leave with a high opinion of the place and the people.

Wildlife: Native birds are abundant in the wild and there are deer in the ranges.

Locals say: Water you waiting for?

Visitors say: Water delight.

Thanks to Janette Campbell from Owlcatraz, an ardent Shannon fan.