With its markets, restaurants, and theaters, Granville Island is among Vancouver's top attractions. Locals and tourists make about 10 million visits to the island each year. That's a lot of company for a tiny neighborhood that covers only 37 acres.
Just what is it that draws so many people to Granville Island? Food, festivals, arts, and a water park are just a few items on the long list.
1. Where is Granville Island
Granville Island is not actually an island. It's a 37-acre protrusion on False Creek -- the narrow waterway between the Downtown peninsula and Vancouver's West Side. It sits directly under the Granville Street Bridge.
You can reach the neighborhood by land or water. Mini-ferries run to Granville Island from the West End, Yaletown, and False Creek. Vancouver hop-off bus tours plan their routes to stop at the island, and there is public transport too. Though parking can be tricky during summer, you can drive to Granville Island, or ride a bike along the seawall.
Industrial warehouses have been converted into Granville Island's artist studios and markets. Your visit to the island will likely begin at the Granville Island Public Market -- a foodie destination stocked with unique vendors, local products, and edible souvenirs.
Granville Island is almost entirely surrounded by False Creek, so there's lots of action on the water. Seals are a common sight near the docks, seagulls scrounge for scraps from picnickers, and kayakers glide by.
After taking it all in, stroll the island to discover the studios of working artisans and the Charles H. Scott Gallery (1399 Johnston St.; 604-844-3809) at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Festivals are another favorite, and Granville Island is the setting for everything from Canada Day celebrations to buskers and Fringe Festival plays.
3. Granville Island for Kids
There's as much for children on Granville Island as for grown-ups. The toy shops and play areas at the Kids Market are an obvious stop. And in summer, there's the water park with its canons, water slide, and splash areas. But the small surprises are fun too -- like the island's kinetic sculptures or cement mixers painted as strawberries.
4. Shopping Granville Island
Granville Island merchants are small, unique boutiques that carry quality and hand-made goods. Some artisans work on-site at island studios, so you can meet local craftspeople. Studios and small independent stores are grouped along Railspur Alley, Duranleau Street, and in the Net Loft. Just look for the welcoming open doors.
Seafood restaurants are plentiful on Granville Island. And the fresh BC spot prawns or sockeye salmon on your plate has likely come from the Fishermen's Wharf -- located just west along the seawall. You can grab fish and chips within sight of the fishing boats at Go Fish, or on the upscale patio at The Sandbar.
You can eat something different everyday of your trip at the Granville Island Public Market, where small kitchens are set up food-court-style. There's a mix of international cuisines, baked goods, and local products to tempt your palate.
Granville Island is a hub for live theater. The Arts Club is the best known theater venue, with its full season of contemporary comedies, lively musicals, and seasonal productions. Another favorite is The Improv Centre, where the Vancouver TheatreSports League performs impromptu comedy.
There's regular live music at The Backstage Lounge, and plenty of cocktails at restaurant bars.
The Granville Island Hotel is the only accommodation on Granville Island itself, but the hotel is lovely -- with a restaurant and patio, brewpub, hot tub, and waterfront views. Staying on the island makes it easy to take in a play or live music for the evening, and then spend the morning over fresh pastries and locally roasted coffee at the public market.