In the early 1900s, Granville Island was home to factories, plants and sawmills. At one time, its official name was actually Industrial Island. Things are a little different today, Granville Island is both a locals’ favorite and a huge draw for visitors. It is centred around the Granville Island Public Market, a bevy of merchants selling seafood, fresh produce, cheese and breads. The island’s offerings are much more diverse than just one of North America’s best markets, with theatre, culture, restaurants and unique attractions drawing millions of people each year.
The biggest attraction on Granville Island is the Public Market. Housed indoors, there are endless rows of stalls that feature fresh produce, gourmet foods, baked goods, seafood and numerous other commercial vendors. Locals come here to get started on whatever lunch or dinner menus they are working on, and visitors come to get lost in a dizzying array of fresh smells and lively vendors. For those who love a little guidance, Edible Canada offers daily, two-hour tours beginning at 9am that cover the market from the inside out and hit on plenty of other island attractions.
A Foodie’s Paradise
Granville Island might be small, but it boasts a diverse collection of more than 70 options for grabbing a bite. It’s difficult to walk more than a few steps without being tempted by something fresh and delicious. There are plentiful food stands in the Public Market to grab a snack while shopping, as well as romantic waterside cafés and restaurants, tasty ethnic options and even some fantastic doughnuts. The biggest mistake you can make is visiting the island without an appetite.
Local Beer and Sake
For those looking for a uniquely Granville Island adult beverage, there are two local breweries to check out including the waterfront Dockside Restaurant and Brewing Co. where you can grab a Marina Light Lager and watch the boats pass by. There is even a local, artisan sake maker on the island.
Theatre and Entertainment
Vancouver’s performing arts scene is centred on Granville Island. With several professional and amateur theatre and comedy companies, there is a live entertainment option on any given night. The island is home to the 450-seat Granville Island Stage and Arts Club Theatre Company, Western Canada’s largest theatre company, which produces a variety of performances including musicals, new works and contemporary comedies. The Greater Vancouver Professional Theatre Alliance, a 100-member theatre advocacy group; Vancouver TheatreSports League, an award-winning improv comedy troupe; and several other groups make the Granville theatre scene vibrant.
The community space just outside the Public Market is a hotbed of street performers. There’s ample seating nearby, making this an interesting spot to nibble on some Granville Island food while watching an impromptu musical act.
Crafts & Shopping
There’s something about Vancouver that draws creative types. The city is teeming with imaginative souls creating original arts and crafts at a prolific rate. Granville Island, in particular, is a real-life Etsy marketplace, where you can touch and feel unique, handmade goods. You’ll find handfuls of artists’ studios and co-ops on Granville Island, offering a variety of wares ranging from jewelry to souvenirs, clothing and more. More >>
Parents can bring their kids along knowing the youngsters will immediately gravitate to the nearby Kid's Market. This area is one of the best family-friendly attractions in Vancouver, bar none. It features stores and exhibits tailored just for them. One of the doors is a bit smaller to make kids feel just as welcome as adults — or, maybe the market only has a bigger door to make the experience comfortable for parents.
The island is a great launching point for a number of maritime adventures. Outfitters such as Ecomarine Ocean Kayak Centre offer sea kayaking tours and rentals. There are fishing charters, whale-watching tours, boat tours and sailing adventures available through various other companies as well.
Granville Island history dates back the late 19th century, when the island was little more than a two sandbars that First Nations people used to help corral fish. Throughout the course of two decades of fierce negotiations lasting into the early 1900s, the region's settlers were able to win approval for a plan to reclaim the island by dredging nearly a million cubic yards of fill from False Creek to create the spreading pancake under the Granville Street Bridge. The island started as an industrial hotbed with shipyards and various other industrial businesses bustling. It wasn't until the post-war industrial decline that lasted well into the 1960s and 70s that the plans for a pedestrian and tourist friendly island were hatched with its most recent transformation began. At that point, the declining 37-acre industrial wasteland in Vancouver's False Creek was just starting to become the amazing urban redevelopment seen today.
One of the easiest ways to get to Granville Island is via ferry. Ferries leave every few minutes from the Aquatic Center near the base of Burrard Street. Those who drive can take the Granville Island Bridge.
Hours of Operation
Granville Island Public Market: Open seven days a week, 9am–7pmMost other retail stores: Open seven days a week, 10am–7pm
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