The expedition set off from Royal Park, Melbourne at about 4 pm on 20 August 1860 watched by around 15,000 spectators. The 19 men of the expedition included six Irishmen, five Englishmen, four Afghan camel drivers, three Germans and an American. They took 23 horses, 6 wagons and 26 camels.
The expedition took a large amount of equipment, including enough food to last two years, a cedar-topped oak camp table with two chairs, rockets, flags and a Chinese gong; the equipment all together weighed as much as 20 tonnes. As committee member Captain Francis Cadell had opposed his appointment as leader of the expedition, Burke refused his offer to transport the supplies to Adelaide by ship and then up the Murray and Darling Rivers to be collected on the way; everything was instead loaded onto six wagons. One wagon broke down before it had even left Royal Park and by midnight of the first day the expedition had reached only Essendon on the edge of Melbourne. At Essendon two more wagons broke down. Heavy rains and bad roads made travelling through Victoria difficult and time-consuming. The party arrived at Lancefield on 23 August and set up their fourth camp. The first day off was taken on Sunday, 26 August at Camp VI in Mia Mia.