A pod of dolphins greeted Sarah Poplar as she conquered a rare half-marathon swim from the Poor Knights Islands to Matapouri Beach.

Poplar took on the 21km swim and made it on to Matapouri Beach in eight hours and 10 minutes.

The 42-year-old said she loved doing the swim and was grateful for the support she received.

"I was pleased with the time. I have done a bit of ocean swimming so I know my speeds but you can't account for the variable conditions," she said.

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"There was a bit of swell to start then it flattened off. There was swell coming in from two different directions at one point which made it a bit tougher.

"Rather than finish on the rocks we finished on the beach in Matapouri. There were a few swimmers who came to greet me there which was really great. They had been following the swim online."

Not many have traversed the distance, with Meda McKenzie the last documented back in 1978.

The distance was something Poplar had been considering for a while and she said she was glad she did it.

"We looked at it a couple of times and it's been burning at the back of my brain for a bit," she said.

"It's a good challenge in distance and a beautiful coastline so I'm glad I ticked it off."

Even sealife figured it was a monumental day for Poplar, with four dolphins coming along to see what all the fuss was about.

"I was very lucky. I was having a glorious day and there was a small pod of four that came up and had a look," she said.

"One had a close look which was special."

Poplar was doing the swim in part as preparations for a Cook Strait crossing where she is looking to become the 98th person to swim the distance, though the weather "isn't playing ball".

Poplar said ocean swimming was a sport she had long been passionate about.

"Like anything you start off with a sport you love which was swimming," she said.

"I started sea swimming in 2008, then did longer and longer distances until I started training until I met some people who were doing the England to France Channel and ended up doing that."

Poplar also paid tribute to those who helped her in the Poor Knights Islands swim.

"Mike Cochrane was brilliant in helping me as part of my crew," she said.

"Also Dive Tutukaka were a great help."