A strong earthquake near Kaikoura has put nerves on edge after the violent tremor shook central New Zealand just before midnight.

The shallow magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck close to Kaikoura at 11.23pm.

Nearly 2100 people across the country reported feeling the jolt.

Anxiety levels were high as beds and houses shook.


Those closest to the epicentre described a small wobble followed by a sudden large jolt.

Further away people reported the shaking sensation as almost inducing seasickness.

Many who were startled awake said it was a grim reminder of November's deadly tremor.

Posted Nancy Holden on Facebook:"I'm in Atawhai Nelson...felt it big time...chair rocked fan swayed and my crystal was like a pendulum ..my heart is still thudding. ...sure does bring back the last big one.."

Kaikoura resident Fiona Carr described it as "too close to home".

"Not much sleep happening now whole house was shaking," she posted.

"I was actually coming back to normal, as we haven't had a shake lately in Porirua," wrote Kerry Holt.

Jennifer Rush described the shaking giving her flashbacks to the first large Kaikoura quake.

"Sure was scary as hell," posted Miriam Guthrie.

Others said they heard the quake coming seconds before the earth started shaking as well as pets behaving strangely in the lead up.

Lower Hutt man Scott McLeod said the quake had sent his cats "nuts" and Jenna Hammond had observed her cat "acting odd" all day. Other pet owners said dogs were barking before the quake rumbled through.

Many people in the capital for tonight's Guns N' Roses concert were given a fright in upper levels of city hotels.

Posted Courtenay Elizabeth: "I'm in Wellington for concert and bed started shaking.. I hope all is ok in kaikoura."

"Felt it Wellington on the 5th floor of my hotel!" posted Leon Mooney.

"Very noticeable swaying on 7th floor hotel room in Wgtn!" posted Alison McMillan.

Hundreds of kilometres away from the quake's epicentre Rosalea Webby in Stratford described it as a "seasick-inducing wobble".

There have been no reports of damage or injury from the quake.

It's been nearly three months since Kaikoura was struck by a devastating 7.8 earthquake.

Two people died.