At home in Nelson Bay

At home in Nelson Bay

South Australia’s John Zuringer and best mate Buster discovered more than a beaut camp spot when they came across Circular Head. 

Escaping the summer heat of Wallaroo on the Yorke Peninsula, John and his red heeler cross jack russell set sail on the Spirit of Tasmania seeking a cooler climate and fresh coastal air. 

At the end of the Bass Highway, the pair turned left to venture over the Arthur River and further south. 

A right turn led the travellers along a winding gravel road to a place they’ll never forget – Nelson Bay. 

That first year, the visitors set up camp and stayed almost three weeks, vowing to return. For three years since, they have. 

John and Buster gained a greater sense of the community in Circular Head on their last trip to Nelson Bay, at a time when the pair were in need. 

Buster had developed a small growth on his leg in the months before leaving and while he wasn’t in pain, John planned to have him checked out when they returned to Wallaroo in the new year. 

Arriving in late November, the growth began to swell rapidly and when the loyal 10-year-old companion stopped acting like his usual self, John took him to visit Smithton Veterinary Service. 

Buster was prescribed medication to try to counteract the growth but with the swelling spreading, a biopsy recommended drastic action. 

“I couldn’t get my head around it,” says John, of learning his best mate would need to lose his front leg. 

“I couldn’t handle it, and the worst part was Buster couldn’t tell me what he thought.” 

But Buster was in good hands. After a successful operation and an overnight stay, he hobbled out to greet his owner with a grin spread wide and twinkle in his eye. 

Ordered to take it easy for a week or so, Buster was back to his normal self within days. But not without a lot of love from locals. 

Shack owners and campers from all corners of Nelson Bay and beyond stopped by to say g’day to brave old Buster, always with a treat in hand. 

Buster, a longtime lover of long walks on the beach, would wander the coastline with John to pick up rubbish and rope for Stanley artist Josie Riches. 

However Buster’s endurance wasn’t what it used to be after the operation, so Smithton local Jason House fashioned a box for the back of John’s quad bike – a cosy spot for Buster to perch in for long rides along the beach. 

“He sits up there comfortably now,” says John. 

“He needs a bit of helping getting out but as soon as I grab the helmet and jacket, he knows straight away we’re going for a ‘walk’ and he’s right up there.” 

The pair ride the beach, find a spot to park and pick up anything unnatural to the environment. When Buster has had enough, he simply jumps up into his nook to supervise. 

While the pair might be South Australians by postcode, they are Tasmanians at heart because of the friendships formed on that rugged coastline.

All the way from Wallaroo, South Australia, John Zuringer and 10-year-old Buster have found great mates at Nelson Bay. Picture: Ashleigh Force.