Upokongaro is "booming" as locals and businesses grapple with the fact their formerly "sleepy" village is now a destination.
The opening of the Upokongaro Cycle Bridge in December is driving much of the interest in the small riverbank settlement, just north of Whanganui.
Owner of the Riverboat Bar and Cafe Leanne Black said her cafe was "booming" over the summer and was stoked with the support she got.
Black, who took over the bar last year, said locals were telling her how much busier it had been.
"They are noticing it big time," she said. "They say there are way more people around. They're getting use to the idea of having people around. It is a bit foreign to them."
The bridge cost $3.4 million, with half of that funded by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. MBIE has funded $600,000, with the Whanganui District Council providing the rest.
Strategic Lead - Visitor Industries at Whanganui & Partners Paul Chaplow said the bridge at Upokongaro had significantly increased the number of visitors to the area and had proved particularly popular over the summer months.
Whanganui & Partners says tracking conducted on the bridge shows it has been crossed over 100,000 times since opening in early December.
The bridge attracted more than 30,000 visitors in the first six weeks it was open.
Black said there was always going to be a bit of a lull in trade and interest over the colder, winter months.
"Winter time it is expected to slow down so we are doing what we can to keep people out here. We started running weekly quiz nights three weeks ago which has generated a bit of interest. It's been a pretty good turnout. They all have a bit of a laugh and some fun."
The bridge has connected Upokongaro to previously distant river neighbours Papaiti, with both sides enjoying their new relationship.
"We have become a bit of a local to them which has been quite cool to see," Black said.
Owner of Motor Vessel Wairua Sam Mordey said he was a bit worried what installing the bridge would do for business, as he was one of the main avenues for cyclists coming from the Mountain to Sea trail to get in to Whanganui.
"We haven't been affected at all and that we carried a record number of cyclists last summer," Mordey said.
He had noticed a big uptick in interest around Upokongaro and the bridge and said that could only be positive for businesses and potential expansion.
Manager at Behind the Door on 4, Honi Walsh, said the bridge had brought in plenty of people and the potential for the township is massive.
"Since then it has just exploded. People doing a bit more regional travel and the bridge being quite a nice, new tourist attraction in Whanganui.
"We are getting lots of good feedback, not just as a cafe but Upokongaro as a whole, from people that wouldn't normally come out here but are now."
Walsh moved up to Whanganui from Wellington at the beginning of the year and uses the bridge each day to get to work from his home in Aramoho.
"It's really exciting where this goes. It might interest some other developers to put other things out there. I know people are screaming out for public toilets and better parking.
"Once those sorts of things pop up, it's just going to encourage more people to come out. I'm really excited to see what happens."
Meanwhile, Black hopes the township continues to grow and add facilities and attractions.
She would like to see some accommodation and perhaps a small supermarket or dairy put in.
"That is the first thing locals ask for."
Chaplow said Whanganui and Partners had been in contact with businesses could can potentially benefit from the bridge, including eateries and service operators.
"We know that the bridge is bringing more people to Upokongaro and that the local community is benefiting as a result. There may be business opportunities that have emerged, such as the old Upokongaro Village Store, which is for lease," he said.
Whanganui District Council told the Chronicle in December that $150,000 had been pledged for toilet facilities in Upokongaro.
The council said this week it was undergoing final consultations.
"Council is continuing to work with the community and iwi to finalise the location and configuration of the toilet. The manufacturing timeframe should see the toilet installed ready for the summer season," a statement said.
Mordey said whilst it is great that so many people are visiting Upokongaro, something needed to be done to lower the speed of cars traveling through.
Slowing down the speed would make it more friendly destination for elderly and children, he said.
"We are literally seeing thousands of locals visit. People trying to cross the road and pull out in their cars. Something has got to be done to slow people down. It is a recipe for disaster at the moment."
Behind the Door on 4 have done extensive work upgrading the garden and outdoor seating areas for their cafe and are looking to use the quieter winter iron out any kinks before what is expected to be the busiest summer yet.
"We've gone from a sleepy, country cafe to a place to visit and a destination. The word of mouth is happening, let's get our systems and people in place so we can cope over the summer," Walsh said.