This article investigates the soil moisture dynamics within two catchments (Stanley and Krui) in the Goulburn River in NSW during a 3-year period (2005–2007) using the HYDRUS-1D soil water model. Sensitivity analyses indicated that soil type, and leaf area index were the key parameters affecting model performance. The model was satisfactorily calibrated on the Stanley microcatchment sites with a single point rainfall record from this microcatchment for both surface 30 cm and full-profile soil moisture measurements. Good correlations were obtained between observed and simulated soil water storage when calibrations for one site were applied to the other sites. We extended the predictions of soil moisture to a larger spatial scale using the calibrated soil and vegetation parameters to the sites in the Krui catchment where soil moisture measurement sites were up to 30 km distant from Stanley. Similarly good results show that it is possible to use a calibrated soil moisture model with measurements at a single site to extrapolate the soil moisture to other sites for a catchment with an area of up to 1000 km2 given similar soils and vegetation and local rainfall data. Site predictions were effectively improved by our simple data assimilation method using only a few sample data collected from the site. This article demonstrates the potential usefulness of continuous time, point-scale soil moisture data (typical of that measured by permanently installed TDR probes) and simulations for predicting the soil wetness status over a catchment of significant size (up to 1000 km2). Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.