Where to start when looking for maps?
Bushwalkers need accurate, up-to-date maps. Whether planning or leading a walk, or just walking with a few friends in the bush, good maps enable walkers to safely navigate their intended route. They also open new possibilities both during the walk planning and on the track. So, where are these good maps found? We asked map expert, Andrew Robinson from the Koonung Bushwalking Club, to put together a guide for us.
Paper or digital maps?
Using both is best. The paper map provides the 'big picture', can be annotated during planning and is 'weatherproof'. A mapping GPS or Smartphone will, at the very least, provide an accurate position. Put both together and you have a well-equipped walker who is unlikely to be 'mislaid'. Both paper and digital maps are discussed below.
A word about scales
Large scale maps are a must; a good scale is 1:25,000, i.e. 4cm on the map = 1km on the ground. 1:50,000 (2cm = 1km ) is borderline, sometimes lacking sufficient detail for walkers, while 1:100,000 (1cm = 1km) is really only a detailed road map.
Some Smartphone apps
There are a large number of mapping apps, many linked to websites. For bushwalking, maps should be saved offline into the Smartphone itself, rather than continually accessing the internet via a mobile signal. I will mention just a few free apps.
Avenza Maps is linked to a map store containing about a million maps worldwide. It can also display custom maps from other sources and is used by many mapping organisations. You can use your phone's built-in GPS to track your location on any map, plot tracks, add photos and much more.
Maps.me is your worldwide street directory with lots of additional information.
Terra Map is a good, easy app for plotting your track on a walk.
Vicmap is the Victorian Government mapping agency. It is part of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. It produces over 10,000 separate map sheets using 3 scales covering the entire state. These are:
- Vicmap Topographic 1:25,000, A0 sheet
- Vicmap Topographic 1:30,000, A4 sheet
- Vicmap Topographic 1:30,000, A3 sheet
(1:30,000 maps contain the same detail as 1:25,000, but are designed for easy printing on A4 or A3)
- Vicmap Topographic 1:50,000, A0 sheet
- Vicmap Topographic 1:100,000, A0 sheet
These maps are updated every 18 months to two years.
The maps are available either online or via the Vicmap Viewer Smartphone app. This app allows you to purchase, download, store and copy Vicmaps to the Avenza map app. Remember, only 3 custom maps (including Vicmaps) can be loaded into the Avenza free version at any time. So the Vicmap Viewer app is handy storage for the maps.
Vicmap mainly prints 1:50,000 paper maps and only a few 1:25,000. As all the map files are PDF’s, you can print any map you want; the 1:30,000 maps are especially handy here.
If a large number of Vicmaps are required, they can be purchased through a value-added reseller. Memory-map is one such reseller that has all Vicmaps. There are limitations. You must use memory-map software for viewing and printing the maps, but the cost savings can be considerable. Memory-map works on both your desktop and through a Smartphone app. Maps are downloaded as you need them or can be fully downloaded from the memory-map digital map store.
Third-party maps which utilize Vicmap data
Vicmap spatial data is freely available to map producers to make their own maps. nswtopo and Getlost Maps make 1:25,000 maps covering Victoria which are published in the Avenza app Map Store. nswtopo maps use similar symbology to Vicmap and make a small charge. Getlost maps use a slightly different symbology, are free, and contain additional data from other sources, e.g. OpenStreetMap. These maps can also be downloaded from the Getlost Maps website in a printable form if a paper copy is desired.
A number of areas of interest to walkers are covered by Spatial Vision’s Outdoor recreation guides. Most of these maps are at a scale of 1:50,000 and are packed with detail. Wilsons Promontory, The Grampians and Bogong Alpine area are just a few. The maps can be purchased as paper or are also available in a georeferenced form through the Avenza app map shop. Spatial Vision also produces the Vicmap books, covering Victoria at a scale of 1:50,000. These are used by the CFA and emergency services.
Popular walking places, such as the Brisbane Ranges, Lerderderg and Werribee Georges, Hattah-Kulkyne and others are covered by Meridian’s Walking and Park Maps. The maps can be purchased as paper or are also available in a georeferenced form through the Avenza app map shop.
OpenStreetMap is a free editable map of the world maintained by over two million volunteers. These maps form the basis of the maps used in many Smartphone mapping apps. Many areas are mapped in great detail including the accurate plotting of walking tracks. Occasionally, one may come across a remote area where the mapping is incomplete. Printing of these maps can be done through a number of websites. Inkatlas is one such site which is free, easy to use and you can add your own track plots too. It can print in black/white and A4 multipage so expensive printing is not required.
Google and Apple maps
These online maps are primarily road maps but can show some tracks in some areas. Both are available as apps for a Smartphone and Google maps are readily opened on a desktop.
This much-loved street directory does show minor roads and some walking tracks. In some areas, the tracks are incomplete or inaccurately marked. There is also an online version.
Parks Vic visitor guides (Parknotes), often contain good information on visitor facilities, walks and a good sketch map of the park. Unfortunately, only a few of these are currently available through the Parks Vic website. However, many of the maps are available in a georeferenced form through the Avenza app map
shop for free.
Rooftop and Hayman maps
These maps can be only obtained through map resellers. See list below. The Forest Activities Map series are the ones for walkers at a scale of 1:50,000 with more detailed insert maps of some areas. They cover some popular walking areas.
Don’t forget this superb resource. Once you have decided on your walk route, you can visualise it on Google Earth. Check out every twist and turn you intend to walk. If you don’t have the program on your desktop or smartphone, you can use the web version.
Don’t forget local organisations. Councils, alpine resort managements etc. often produce excellent maps and track notes of walks in their areas.
ABC Maps – shop and online
Maps, Books and Travel Guides – shop and online
MapWorks – shop and online
Melbourne Map Centre – online only
The above list is not exhaustive but can start you on the way to finding quality, up-to-date maps for your next walk.
Links and sources accurate as on 7 Agusut 2020. Link validity and link content are subject to change.