Footage of surging waves hitting Tokomaru Bay, on the East Coast, has been posted on social media.
Waiapu Civil Defence posted the video, taken by Claudia Maaka, showing the waves hitting the bay about 11.30am on Friday, following the 8.1 magnitude earthquake in the Kermadec Islands earlier today. Gina Pewhairangi posted a similar video as residents watched from nearby hills.
New Zealand was under a series of tsunami warnings and advisories, covering both the east and west coasts of the country, across both islands. However, residents who were evacuated in Northland, Bay of Plenty and East Coast could return home early on Friday afternoon.
Hundreds of workers, students and residents headed to higher ground earlier on Friday.
Residents were told to move immediately after the magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the Kermadec Islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, at 8.28am (NZT).
There was gridlock in cities such as Whangārei and on other roads around the affected regions.
New Zealanders in coastal areas reported the landscape changing, with waves approaching and rivers emptying.
Businesses in central Whāngarei evacuated and employees advised to go to higher ground.
A central Whāngarei worker earlier on Friday said it was packed in town as people tried to evacuate.
"There were heaps of people standing on the street outside their workplaces."
A tsunami alert siren sounded in the Whangārei suburb of Onerahi.
Whangarei Intermediate School evacuated, with pupils walking to higher ground at the cycle track near their school.
People were being told to walk, run or cycle if possible to reduce the chance of getting stuck in traffic.
According to USGS the latest quake to hit off the Kermadec Islands was magnitude 8.1 and 19.4km deep.
This was the third and largest quake above magnitude seven to hit the Pacific region on Friday morning.
A 7.4 quake struck near Raoul Island in the Kermadecs at 6.41am - and many New Zealanders were shaken awake by a magnitude 7.1 quake off the North Island's east coast at 2.27am.
Both of the earlier quakes triggered Civil Defence tsunami warnings that were later lifted but the third quake sparked the strongest warnings.