Paper maps

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Good maps are essential for planning and use during a trip.  The best maps to use for bushwalking are topographic which accurately represent the elevation and shape of the ground with contour lines. They also provide a great deal of other terrain features.

Information provided by other maps which is not shown on standard topographic maps may also be very useful. Other maps may include road, national parks guides, maps in guidebooks and recreational maps for particular user groups.

Map scales

Map scales are shown as a ratio that expresses the relationship between a unit of measure on the map compared with a unit on the ground. For example, one centimetre on a 1:50,000 scale map equals 50,000cm (500m) on the ground.

The best scale to use is determined by the intended use of the map and is affected by the intended method of travel through a given area. A 4WD driver may use a 1:100,000 map while a bushwalker may choose a 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 map. A larger scale map (e.g. 1:25,000) shows more detail than a smaller scale map (e.g. 1:1,000,000).

In Victoria, the VICMAP 1:30,000 series works well in electronic form in the Avenza map app. They contain exactly the same topographic detail as the 1:25,000 maps.

ScaleUses1 cm on the map equates to:
1:100,000Trip planning. Car travel to/from trip. Walking/ski touring (on track). Four wheel driving trips.1000 metres or 1km
1:50,000Bushwalking/ski touring.500 metres
1:30,000Online digital government topographic can be printed and used on trips. 
1:25,000Bushwalking, ski touring and Rogaining (on or off track).250 metres
1:15,000Rogaining and orienteering150 metres
1:10,000Rogaining and orienteering100 metres

Printed topographic maps

Governments no longer print standard topographic maps. A few are still available in outdoor and map shops.

Instead, government topographic maps can be bought online and then printed or ordered as large, printed sheets from some map shops.  See links to state pages for mapping authorities:

Printed map quality can be optimised by:

  • Printing on high quality or waterproof paper
  • Printing larger sizes (A3) on high quality paper (e.g. at Officeworks)
  • Laminating or spraying with a sealing agent to make it more water resistant.

Recreational maps

Recreational maps available in outdoor and map shops contain specific information for particular user groups including:

  • Bushwalking
  • Ski touring
  • Four wheel driving
  • Mountain biking
  • Gold detecting

These maps may show details such as reliable water sources, campsites, huts and areas of interest. They may also show tracks which are not on standard topographic maps. They may also cover the area of interest on one sheet.


Maps in guidebooks are intended as an indication of where to walk. They can make it easier to plan a trip and follow the notes, but they should be used in conjunction with recommended commercial and topographic maps.

Caution: Maps in guidebooks should not be the only map used for navigation purposes on a trip.

National Parks and public land information

Hard copy maps may be available from national park offices.

Digital maps available on websites provided by national park services and state land management offices may include topographic digital maps that can be used on devices and/or printed.

Each state provides online information about routes including park, track and road conditions or closures, water and fire restrictions or events, etc.

See State information pages for more detail.

Information on other websites

Various websites published by individuals, clubs and other organisations provide information on outdoor activities. Some sites include GPS track logs, but caution is needed using such track logs as they may not follow the best, safest or current route.

See also