Many Wellington shop keepers are facing a huge clean up.
Newstalk ZB's Wellington host, Tim Fookes, is in the CBD and told Leighton Smith he can see, through windows, a lot of damage inside shops.
He says clothes racks have fallen over, there is shattered glass and wine all over some floors and, once it can get underway the clean up will be enormous.
At Bel Mondo cafe and market in Lyall Bay, the floor is a slick of smashed bottles of wine and pasta sauce. The big pizza oven had moved five metres across the floor and the gelato freezer had moved forward and unplugged.
Store manager Stephanie Jenson said the quake was a horrifying experience.
"We came in this morning to find out almost all the shelves had fallen down."
She expected the store to reopen in the next day or so.
She had family from near Washington DC staying with her who had been deployed cleaning up, along with her children.
Staff member Filip Sebek spent some of the night in his car in the hills around Lyall Bay after seeing a tsunami warning on the Internet. From the Czech Republic, he has been in New Zealand for five weeks.
"I was scared, yeah. It was new for me. At first I didn't know what was happening and after that, it was an earthquake so... Run away."
Jenson's sister Michelle McDonnell said it was the largest quake she had felt although it took her some time to register what was happening when it woke her.
"My niece ran in and said 'earthquake! Get in the doorway.' But then it stopped.
I was a little bit nervous. It was a weird feeling.
Luckily the house is above a tunnel so it absorbed the shock. Stephanie said we probably only felt half as much as the rest of Wellington."
TsunJeck Lim, 26, was shaken awake on the tenth floor of a central Wellington apartment building.
Water poured from the roof as pipes burst. His furniture and possessions were strewn across the apartment.
"I thought I was going to die," he said.
"Things started shaking and then things started falling one by one. I thought the building was going to collapse, but it stopped and I just ran down the stairs."
He returned inside at 5am, and was shocked by the scale of the damage.
Photos show his whole apartment in disarray, with furniture and possessions strewn everywhere.
He was now seeking shelter at BizDojo, a shared office space in Wellington.
"I am still terrified. I haven't slept all night."
Jesse Fisher, who lives on the 13th floor of the SoHo apartments, recorded the damage to her apartment. It shows items all over the floor.
The earthquakes has turned out to be a birthday surprise for William Wardrop from Lismore in New South Wales, who turns 12 today.
William, his parents Sandra and Paul and his brother Alexander were among the dozens of hotel guests from the Park Hotel on The Terrace who were evacuated to the foyer of the Beehive after last night's quake.
"We were panicking," he said.
They were on the 10th floor.
Cracks appeared in the hotel room, William said. They left the hotel by the emergency stairs and said the walls were covered in cracks "like spider webs."
The family camped out on one of the sofas in the Beehive foyer but got little sleep.
They are not sure whether Prime Minister John Key has been down to the foyer.
"We don't know what he looks like, so he may have," Sandra said.
The family is holidaying outside school holidays to fit in with Sandra's leave - she is nurse.
They have another night booked at The Park before heading to Taranaki but are now unsure of their plans.
Alexander had his 15th birthday on Saturday, jet boating in Rotorua and then had a birthday cake in Palmerston North.
Other guests at the hotel, on the ninth floor, included Mark and Denise Small, sheep, beef and venison farmers from Ida Valley, who flew in yesterday for a couple of days holiday in Wellington.
They had never been to Wellington before - and never will again, they say.