Australian Outback Maps

Topography, Road & Station Maps of Inland Australia

The cattle stations I visit are situated along good quality bitumen roads such as the Flinders Highway, Barkly Highway, Stuart Highway, Arnhem Highway, Victoria Highway, Great Northern Highway and Gulf Development Road; and bitumen roads that are narrow, with edges not always in ideal condition, such as the Kennedy and Tableland Highways; and roads that are primarily dirt and of variable quality, such as the Peninsula Development Road, Burke Development Road, Diamantina Development Road, Bulloo Development Road, Donohue and Plenty Highways, Buchanan Highway (Muranji track), Buntine Highway, Duncan Highway, and Gibb River Road.

Anna Creek is the world’s largest cattle station and it is found in northern South Australia however I have not been there, as I only visit stations that still use stockhorses to muster cattle.


Topographic and other maps are available from state government departments.

The main company producing detailed outback maps is Hema Maps however Westprint also produce excellent outback maps – and the bloke running the show used to be a farmer. Westprint Maps are based in Nhill, Victoria, and they produce very detailed maps of remote inland roads – such as the Gunbarrel Highway, the Plenty and Sandover ‘Highways’ – and remote areas, such as the Diamantina Lakes.

Motoring organisations such as the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) also have very good outback maps available free to members and a handy ‘trip planner’ map on the website. Terrance Alick has produced books of detailed station maps of Qld and NT for many years, and more recently added an atlas of NSW pastoral stations. These can be obtained from newsagents and bookshops or direct from Terrence Alick at PO Box 40, Emu Park Qld 4710.

Map Reliability

Most outback road maps show the main roads very accurately but there’s no such thing as a map that shows all the exact distances and precise locations of minor roads.

Quite often the distances between fuel stops and road junctions are inexact so care should be taken when planning journeys on these quieter roads.

It’s a lot more relaxing to travel with a container of spare fuel if it is possible that your fuel tank might get down to the last few litres (unwise in remote areas, because its the last place you want some rubbish down the bottom of the tank clogging the fuel system).

Vehicles also use more fuel when using air conditioning, when towing (especially into a headwind – the Barkly Highway catches a lot of east-travelling caravanners by surprise) and more on rough roads than on bitumen, so be conservative when calculating fuel usage. If you are driving on a dirt road you should be travelling at a lower speed so fuel consumption should be lower, however it is obviously good sense to plan on the safe side. Few cattle stations sell fuel and if they do it will cost you a lot more than in the nearest town because they’ve had to pay a hefty freight bill from the nearest fuel depot, and a retail sale just means more paperwork.

Because towns and notable features are few and far between in remote areas cartographers often mark cattle stations on maps, simply to fill up a bit of blank map space. These could be mistaken by the unfamiliar for towns when in fact they are a just a group of buildings where the station occupants live, on privately owned land. These are not open to the public unless they are in the ‘farm stay’ business, so make sure it’s clear on your map what is a roadhouse or town and what is just a group of houses on private property.

It is wise to travel with more than one map of the same area and refer to both while travelling. Maps produced by tourism authorities are produced specifically for tourists so they usually have towns more clearly marked and extra information on notable features of interest, plus service symbols (accommodation, fuel, meals etc).

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a GPS/satellite navigation system is the be-all and end-all. Most users have experienced inaccuracy in Australia’s cities housing millions of people – so how accurate do you think GPS mapping is out in the sticks, where the population is sparse? It isn’t accurate, and of course there is always the potential for electronic devices to die in the legs right when you most need them. So anyone who heads into unfamiliar bush without a selection of good quality maps, to back up a GPS system, is inviting trouble.

Extra care should be taken if driving on minor roads in mining areas in remote regions (eg in the Cooper/Eromanga basin), because the volume of traffic on their private roads is usually far greater than the traffic on the public roads, and mining companies tend to maintain and signpost their own roads well but neglect to sign post the public fork of their newly created intersections. Because these mining roads are so new and maps in remote areas are updated so infrequently, neither maps nor GPS systems will have any record of these new roads. A good sense of direction is of little use when minor roads in remote areas do not have changes in direction accurately mapped.  It is necessary to proceed along these roads a fair way to accurately determine the general direction they are headed in (thus using up fuel and daylight), because these roads meander around natural obstacles, unlike more travelled roads where culverts and roadcuttings etc have enabled straightening. When roaming around these very remote areas it can be an impossible task to confidently determine which fork to take. Often the public road is the one that looks like a goat pad, so local advice is essential, as is plenty of fuel, water and daylight.

Just because a ‘track’ is marked on a map doesn’t mean that a vehicle has ever travelled along it in recent decades. There are some ‘roads’ and ‘tracks’ marked on maps that were gazetted more than a century ago when pastoral leases were first granted, that have never been regularly used by anyone. And a marked ‘track’ heading through a pastoral lease may not be open to the general public, either. In any case, if your vehicle breaks down or if you need medical help or any other assistance – it will be the nearest pastoralist that you will have to turn to for help – there isn’t anyone else. So stick to formed roads that are obviously maintained and signposted by the local council and open to the general public, and make sure you speak to the station owners or managers before opening a gate and heading onto any minor roads and tracks through private property.

For more travel information see the Travelling in the Outback page.

The unique books ‘A Million Acre Masterpiece’ and ‘Life as an Australian Horseman’contain hundreds of authentic photographs of Australia’s largest and most famous cattle stations, located between Queensland’s remote Cape York Peninsula and Gulf and arid Channel Country; across the Northern Territory’s vast Barkly Tableland and historic Victoria River District, to Western Australia’s beautiful Kimberley region. These remote cattle stations are located more than 3,000 kilometres apart East/West and North/South, and are not accessible to the general public, so these books offer a rare glimpse into a life that few have the opportunity to experience first hand.

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