The quake, which struck at 3:52pm (0252 GMT), had its epicentre in the North Island about 115 kilometres (71 miles) northeast of the capital city Wellington, the US Geological Survey said.
The tremour was felt throughout the North and South islands. The first tremour was followed by a series of smaller aftershocks.
New Zealand's GeoNet put the quake at a magnitude of 6.2, but had it at a shallower depth of 10 kilometres.
Some houses in the small township of Eketahuna suffered broken windows and structural damage but police said there had been no reports of injuries.
A huge model eagle, used to promote the "Hobbit" movie trilogy, fell to the ground from the roof of Wellington airport. All train services in the Wellington region were cancelled after the quake.
Not new to quakes
New Zealand lies on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, forming part of the so-called "Ring of Fire". The country experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.
A 6.3-magnitude earthquake in the South Island city of Christchurch in 2011 had killed 185 people. In 1855, Wellington was the scene of the country's most powerful earthquake. That devastating 8.2-magnitude quake caused four deaths and changed the city's entire geography, pushing the shoreline out 200 metres (660 feet) as it thrust the harbour floor upwards.
(With AP inputs)