Map scale explained

Large Scale Maps

A map which depicts a small area/region is referred to as a large scale map. This is because the area of land being represented by the map has been scaled down less, or in other words, the scale is larger. A large scale map only shows a small area, but it shows it in great detail. Scale of 1:50,000 or greater is generally considered a large scale map.

Example of a large scale map: LINZ 1:50,000 topographic map

Small Scale Maps

A map depicting a large area, such as an entire country, is considered a small scale map. In order to show the entire country, the map must be scaled down until it is much smaller. A small scale map shows more territory, but it is less detailed.

Example of a small scale map: Back Country 1:10,000,000 map of Australia

Other scales

Maps come in all scales from large to small and everything in between. Scale standard have emerged over time, these are:

  • 1:10,000 - Street Directories, City Maps (example)
  • 1:25,000 - Topographic Maps, City Maps (example)
  • 1:50,000 - Topographic Maps, Regional Maps (example)
  • 1:100,000 - Topographic Maps, Road Atlas, Regional Maps
  • 1:250,000 - Road Atlas, Touring maps, Topographic map