Much of central New Zealand has been jolted awake by a noisy tremor that struck in the dead of night.

The quake, measuring magnitude 4.1, struck 15km northwest of Wellington just after 2.30am.

Geonet said the quake caused light shaking across the region.

More than 2100 people reported feeling the quake from as far afield as Bay of Plenty and Christchurch.

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Many living in the Wellington region described it as a noisy quake that could be heard several seconds before it struck.

"I was already awake working and heard it coming. Rumble then shake," posted Tracy Wellington.

"It was very loud like a truck idling outside for about 3-4 seconds before the actual shake," posted Te Raina Terangikoiaanake.

One person who was up when it hit watched the ground move like waves.

Others said the quake felt much bigger than 4.1 as they were unexpectedly jolted awake.

"I didn't think it was light shaking! It was quite hard out!" posted Jen Bhati.