The British public first learned about the government’s plans to settle Australia in their newspapers in 1786. It seems that The Times was a little confused about the location of Botany Bay:This is one of a series of pieces that may or may not ever see the light of day in a book: it is more likely than not that I will be self-publishing my Colonial Concerns, from which this is taken, as an e-book: it turned into a huge opus (a quarter of a million words of Australian history) that frightens print publishers. If and when the e-book happens, I will edit this to indicate where it can be obtained. In the interim, this is available to students of all ages, complete with sources.
It took The Times three weeks to think about this.Government is now about settling a colony in New Holland, in the Indian seas; and the Commissioners of the Navy are now advertising for 1500 tons of transports. This settlement is to be formed at Botany Bay, on the west side of the island, where Captain Cook refreshed and staid some time on his voyage in 1770. As he first sailed around that side of the island, he called it New South Wales, and the two Capes at the mouth of the river were called by the names Banks and Solander. There are 680 men felons and 70 women felons to go, and they are to be guarded by 12 marines and a corporal in every transport, containing 150 felons. There are several men of war and some frigates to go, but they all come back, but one or two of each, which are to remain there some time to assist in establishing a garrison of 300 men intended to be left there. The whole equipment, army, navy, and felons, are to be landed with two years provisions, and all sorts of implements for the culture of the earth, and hunting and fishing, and some slight buildings are to be run up immediately till a proper fort and town-house are erected. This place is in nearly the same latitude with the Cape of Good Hope, and about eight months voyage from England. 
After that, the plans to go to Botany Bay were almost daily news. People talked about it, people sang about Botany Bay, but even if you can see and hear it said on television or read about it in story books, prisoners were not sentenced to be “transported to Botany Bay” until June 1791. …the measure of sending convicts to Botany Bay … must meet with the approbation of all moderate men. No measure has been yet devised, which so effectually combines the punishment and the security of the felons. 
The path followed.The eleven ships of the First Fleet were a mixture. There were two navy ships, Sirius and Supply, there were store-ships Fishbourn, Golden Grove and Borrowdale, and the convict transports Alexander, Scarborough, Charlotte, Prince of Wales, Lady Penrhyn and Friendship.
|The main points on the route of the First Fleet (Peter Macinnis)|
|Arthur Phillip, frontispiece to his The Voyage to Botany Bay|