We describe our latest work in understanding spatial localization in open arenas based on rat studies and corresponding modeling with simulated and physical robots. The studies and experiments focus on goal-oriented navigation where both rats and robots exploit distal cues to localize and find a goal in an open environment. The task involves training of both rats and robots to find the shortest path to the goal from multiple starting points in the environment. The spatial cognition model is based on the rat's brain neurophysiology of the hippocampus extending previous work by analyzing granularity of localization in relation to a varying number and position of landmarks. The robot integrates internal and external information to create a topological map of the environment and to generate shortest routes to the goal through path integration. One of the critical challenges for the robot is to analyze the similarity of positions and distinguish among different locations using visual cues and previous paths followed to reach the current position. We describe the robotics architecture used to develop, simulate and experiment with physical robots.