British explorer James Cook sighted Grande Terre in 1774 and named it "New Caledonia", Caledonia being the Latin name for what is now Scotland. The island's mountains reminded him of Scotland. Eventually, the name "New Caledonia" became applied to Grande Terre and its surrounding islands.
The largest settlement on Grande Terre is Nouméa, the capital city of New Caledonia. Locals refer to Grand Terre as "Le Caillou", the rock. The island has a fairly hot and humid climate, though varying as the south-east trade winds bring relatively cool air. Surrounding the island and especially to the north-west is the New Caledonian barrier reef.
The island is located roughly 1,300 kilometers east of Australia. Grande Terre is oriented northwest-to-southeast; its area is 16,372 square kilometres (6,321 square miles). It is nearly 400 kilometres (250 miles) in length and 50-70 km (30-40 mi) wide in most places. A mountain range runs the length of the island, with five peaks over 1,500 metres (4,900 feet). The highest point is Mont Panié at 1,628 m (5,341 ft) elevation. Grande Terre is one of the largest islands in the Pacific Ocean.