Four seaside homes in Days Bay, including a bach formerly owned by Katherine Mansfield, appear to be write-offs after being smashed to pieces by the high tide.
The front of the houses, at the northern tip of the bay, were severely affected overnight on Thursday.
Homeowner John Ross said he and his family had had a lucky escape, evacuating at 1am, an hour before the high tide struck.
"I'd bought another house in the hills of Days Bay and was slowly shifting stuff over before the family moved. But I did not like the look and sound of the storm this morning, so we got out at around one."
Mr Ross, who was sharing the house with his 82-year-old mother, partner and 2-year-old son, said the waves had shattered the front window, which he estimated to be about 10 millimetres thick.
"Imagine if we'd been inside when that struck. There's just no fighting the force of the sea. It could have been very different and tragic had we not got out."
Mr Ross said he expected four of the five seaside houses to be write-offs. "The seawall is broken, the houses shattered, some walls are no longer there . . . And now the sea is doing further damage."
All the other residents had got out safely.
The one house to escape relatively lightly is set slightly further back from the sea.
Sarah Gilbert, who lives across from the former Mansfield house, said while her own property had escaped unscathed there was little doubt the historic house was ruined.
"The house looks absolutely terrible, it's finished, they won't be living there again."
Mr Ross returned to his house about 5am but initially could not get through his gate because of the drift-wood and debris littering the roadside garden. "The new owners are not going to like this," he said. "But what can you do against this force of nature?"
- The Dominion Post