Nearly 18,000 people, most of them on foot, have crossed the new Upokongaro cycle bridge since its counter was installed.
The December 2 opening of the bridge has brought more business to the hotel and cafe in the village 12km from Whanganui.
The change has prompted its most active tourism operator, Sam Mordey, to say Upokongaro needs better tourist infrastructure - public toilets, benches, rubbish bins, car parking and a reduced speed limit.
Mordey will be sailing the MV Wairua from Whanganui to Upokongaro five days a week this summer, and from January passengers will be able to buy a one-way ticket and bring their bicycles.
"People will be able to go up there, have their lunch and cycle back [to Whanganui] in their own time," he said.
Most of Mordey's passengers visit either the Avoca Hotel or the Behind The Door On 4 cafe. They can use the toilets there or on his boat. For people not visiting a business premises, there's no toilet available.
Whanganui District Council has $150,000 to build public toilets by June next year, a spokeswoman said. Most residents want them sited near the Upokongaro Hall, but some fear that will encourage freedom campers.
The council has consulted on whether to upgrade the hall, and will do so using rates money and external funding. It is still deciding how to manage it.
It would be a good spot for a river museum, Mordey said.
St Mary's Church, with its unusual steeple and memorial stained glass windows, is another attraction in the village. Mordey gives his customers a tour of the church.
At the cafe, business has increased by about 40 per cent since the bridge opened, chef Terry Death said. He thinks the new bridge is a factor.
At the Avoca Hotel tenant Leanne Black has been "run off her feet" with functions arising from Wairua visits and overflow from the cafe. The hotel can't offer accommodation but Black said the empty Upokongaro Village Stores building next door would be ideal for that, "bouncing off us and the cafe".
The wharf at Upokongaro Landing was built in 2007 by Horizons Regional Council for the use of the paddlesteamer Waimarie. It has had only occasional use since the Waimarie stopped berthing at Upokongaro on its daily cruises.
Any decision to resume that will have to wait until the 2021-22 summer, Waimarie manager Phil Pollero said.
Until the cycle bridge was built, the safest way for people riding the Mountains to Sea cycleway to get from Upokongaro to Whanganui was on Mordey's boat, with the alternative being State Highway 4.
During the 2018-19 summer season Mordey carried 800 cyclists. The 2019-20 season looked like breaking that record until Covid-19 arrived.
Mountains to Sea/Ngā Ara Tūhono cycleway champion Lynley Twyman expects a fantastic summer this year, now that every part of the trail is complete. She predicts 9000 people will ride the Whanganui River Rd and 16,000 the Old Coach Rd section near Ohakune.
Last year Tour Aotearoa participants voted the Mountains to Sea/Ngā Ara Tūhono the country's third best cycle trail, after the Timber Trail and West Coast Wilderness Trail.
Twyman would like to bump it up to number one. She is working with Ngā Tāngata Tiaki to get more signs telling its stories, which will enrich the visitor experience.
Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) is also looking to improve the SH4 verge for cycling between the Whanganui River Rd turn-off and Upokongaro, and Twyman is looking for more hospitality providers along the route.
Upokongaro is also on the 3000km Te Araroa trail, and Mordey carries 50 to 100 of those walkers each season as well. This year the number of walkers has been reduced by Covid-19 restrictions.