For planning trips and 4WD excursions it is often easier to
get the ‘big picture’ first by using paper maps as scrolling
across a number of computer screens is often confusing. A
compass would also prove to be useful to take along for
remote trips so you know the direction you are heading.
The detail in maps is determined by scale and the scale of a
map is a ratio of a single unit of distance on a map to
equivalent distance on the ground. The map scale is usually
located in the legend box of the map which contains
explanations for the symbols and other important
A scale expressed as a ratio of say 1:10,000 means that one
unit on the map represents 10,000 units on the ground, ie 1
millimeter represents 10,000 mm, expressed better as 10
Other good examples are:-
1:100,000 map scale - 1 cm = 1 kilometer on the ground
1:250,000 map scale – 1 cm = 2.5 kilometers on the ground
1:1,000,000 map scale – 1 cm = 10 kilometers on the ground
Maps with a scale of 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 are termed ‘large
scale’ maps and are best for bushwalkers or hikers as they
provide a lot of detail.
Maps between 1:50,000 and 1:250,000 are termed ‘intermediate
Maps designed for motorists and those popular for 4WD
enthusiasts are in the scale 1:250,000.
LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE
you look at a map the lines running horizontally depict
latitude. Degrees of latitude are number O degree to
90 degrees with O degrees at the equator, 90 degrees south
being the South Pole and 90 degrees north being the North
Longitude lines, also known as meridians, run vertically on
a map. Greenwich, England is zero degrees longitude and the
degrees continue 180 degree East and 180 degree West until
they meet to form the International Date Line.
Topographic maps depict natural and constructed
features on the Earth’s surface. For example,
landforms which are represented by contours and
spot heights, dams, roads, tracks, lakes,
indigenous lands, national parks and state
To understand and interpret topographic maps
some study or training is required. Not to
oversimplify the detail on the maps, topographic
maps depict contour lines to join points of
height or equal elevation. Contour lines close
together indicate a steep slope, two or more
contour lines merging indicate a cliff and
distant contours indicate a shallow slope.
Contour lines can form ‘V’ shapes along stream
or creek beds or valleys with the V pointing
upstream or uphill.
Topographic maps are of particular use to 4WD clubs,
bushwalkers and government environmental agencies
particularly where there is no road or track found on a map
to follow. A compass is a ‘must have’ for such trips.
Google Earth can also be used to view the terrain ahead in
Map legends or tables are located on the map. Maps contain
various lines and symbols for example, major highways, main
roads, railways, unsealed roads, camping are, rest stops,
caravan parks, national parks, state forests and various
Where can I get maps and travel publications?
Paper maps are available from automobile clubs such as NRMA,
RACV, RACQ, RACWA, RACT and the like. The automobile club
websites often include a ‘Trip or Journey Planner’ section
where you can insert ‘from’ and ‘to’ destinations. These
journey planners also provide the option for you to locate
accommodation, activities and attractions.
Hema Maps Pty Ltd is a privately owned company in Brisbane,
Australia with subsidiaries in New Zealand and North
America. Hema maps are available for just about everywhere
in Australia. For example, ‘Great Desert Track’ series,
Australia’s Outback Map, Cape York as well as Central
Australia and many more. Hema also sell hardcover Around
Australia atlas. CD rom maps and a collection of raster
maps on DVD are also available.
For the camping enthusiast or backpacker finding their way
around Australia there is a publication called the Camps
Australia Wide series. Camps Australia Wide book is a great
guide for travellers with campervans, caravans, motorohomes,
5th wheelers and camper trailers as it lists
campgrounds, rest areas, National Parks, State Forests, low
cost caravan parks and bush camps. One version of the A4
size book comes complete with photographs of some of the
camping areas and the updated version provides GPS
co-ordinates. The Camps Australia Wide book provides
symbols for helpful information such as if toilets, power or
showers are available, if pets are allowed, maximum time of
stay, dump (black water waste) points, if suitable for big
rigs or if mobile phone coverage is available. Updates of
the book are currently available for free from their
Books such as Gregory’s and Street Directory for each state
and territory city street maps are available from newsagents
and service stations.