What is Orienteering?

The aim in orienteering is to navigate your way around a course with a series of numbered checkpoints called controls. The course is marked on a map  with coloured symbols, explained by a legend. The controls are placed on definite features such as track and creek junctions, a fence bend or by a distinctive boulder. The site is marked with an orange and white flag which has an electronic punching unit attached. You use this to "punch" the control with your SI stick ( or E stick ). This electronic timing chip (which you can purchase or hire from us) is attached to your finger and records which controls you have been to and in which order.

The skill in orienteering is in choosing the best route between controls. While beginners' courses may not offer choice, as you progress you will learn to decide between options - perhaps over a hill or a longer route which goes round it. The accurate "tortoise" is usually quicker than the "hare" who darts off and makes mistakes in navigation. Each of the control sites is described with either control description symbols or English text. Usually you must visit the control flags in the correct order.

Here are some useful links...


Childrens and family activities :  Juniors & Schools

What happens at an event?    video to explain basic orienteering to kids.     

Map reading  - How to read a map for beginner kids

Here is our Coaching & Tips page with various 5 minute teach yourself lessons

Colour Legend -  Map Symbols

Black & White - Control Description Symbols (advanced orienteers only)  and Quiz .

Other helpful links :

Permanent & Accessible Courses are located in several suburbs. You can download a free map 24 hrs a day.

Instruction Videos filmed in Canberra starring our own athletes.  

Office holders contact details.  Feel free to contact us.

How to become a member.  and get discount entry fees.

How to buy a compass or E stick,  (electronic timing chip attaches to your finger)

Juniors & Schools  

Local ACT events  Orienteering ACT organises 100 public events every year 

 Subscribe to OACT Weekly Bulletin  

Orienteering Australia (OA)  Eventor website :

Eventor is managed by OA. It lists all MAJOR events in Australia. First you will need to create a user account.  Email  support@orienteering.asn.au to ask for help or to provide feedback. Better still follow this easy to use guide produced by Tasmania. For a detailed  overview of Eventor please see this OA document: Eventor - Making Life Easy . 

Some Fun Orienteering Videos:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnE-hftGQoU     Nice professional movie
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PZub8zSFy8     Pure nature
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-_3rH0oOh8     Boys and enthusiasm!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZmYCvMTmQI  I like the ski-o part. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8qQ40JC-Us     Always downhill. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qya4hrSKYJk     Nice

Orienteering is a Sport for All

Orienteering events provide a range of courses to cater for all participants. The courses are graded by age, by length and the amount of navigation required.

Typically there are shorter courses for beginners and for younger people; these follow "handrail features" (tracks, creeks, fences) through to ones designed to appeal to the fit and navigationally experienced, using more contour features.

Orienteering provides a special environment, in that the same event caters for all ages, for social and recreational participants as well as the more competitive, for families who can all go to the same event. If you want you can do the course in pairs or in a small group. A special attraction is that every course is different.           A good video to explain basic orienteering to kids. 

What do you need to start Orienteering?

To start you can wear comfortable pants with a T-shirt and pair of runners (remember to bring a bottle of water and a snack). Your entry fee includes the cost of the special orienteering map and timing chip.  For easier courses in well-defined terrain you probably do not need a compass. Ask the organisers on the day; if necessary you can hire one and be shown how to use it. See Welcome to Orienteering (151KB PDF) for more information and also on the Orienteering Australia website.  The ACT Orienteering Website has a Coaching and Tips page.   If you want to buy an E-stick, Compass or Control Description Holder see "Where do I Find?" at the bottom of this page.  ( As a beginner you do not need to buy them at all)


Orienteering maps are made specially for bush navigation and show much more detail than most other maps. Long blue lines across the map with arrowheads show the direction of magnetic north. A scale bar shows the scale of the map — usually, 1 cm equals 150 metres (1:15,000) or 1 cm equals 100 metres (1:10,000).

Different types of features have characteristic coloured symbols as follows:

  • vegetation — white is for average forest, while green patches are for thicker bush which will impede progress, and yellow areas are for open land;
  • water features — are marked in blue and these could include creeks even if then are dry;
  • earth features — are marked in brown and they include contour lines which show the shape of the land, and other things such as earth walls and termite mounds;
  • roads, rocks and man-made features — any mapped rocks and all man-made features (roads, tracks, fences, powerlines, buildings, etc) are all marked as black.

See Map Symbols for Orienteering Maps for complete set of symbols.  Here are more Control Descriptions for Orienteering.

Where can I find? 

To purchase E-sticks, Compasses, or Control Description Holders (for your wrist)  email the OACT office - office@act.orienteering.asn.au

For coaching  hints and tips - see the Coaching and Tips page

For events - see the Events page

For kids - see the Juniors page