Six surf lifeguards piloting two small rescue boats around New Zealand left Wellington early today eyeing the end of their 5200km journey.

The lifeguards left Auckland on January 5 in two inflatable rescue boats powered by 30 horsepower Mercury outboard motors on their circumnavigation.

They crossed Cook Strait from the South Island on Sunday and had a rest day in Wellington yesterday before setting off shortly after 5am today for the 230km leg to Riversdale on the Wairarapa coast east of Masterton.

They would tomorrow head to Napier before tackling the East Cape and heading across the Bay of Plenty to Auckland, where they hoped to arrive on Monday.

Spokeswoman Emma Darwen said they would probably finish six days ahead of schedule.

She said the trip was not to raise money but to raise awareness of surf lifesaving in New Zealand, to celebrate 100 years of keeping beaches safe, and to pay tribute to volunteer lifeguards who had patrolled the beaches in the last century.

Ms Darwen said they had been getting tremendous welcomes from every surf lifesaving club they had called on.

The trip was the first circumnavigation of New Zealand in an inflatable boat less than four metres long.

- NZPA