Granville Island is another Vancouver destination that is equally loved by locals and tourists alike. It is nestled in between the Burrard Street and Granville Street bridges near downtown Vancouver, and bordered by the Burrard Inlet (Pacific Ocean). It isn’t actually an island, but a peninsula. Nevertheless, you feel like you are surrounded by water and boats when you are there.
Granville Island is a wonderful place to spend time whether it is winter or summer, or whether you are looking for adult only or family activities. Immediately upon entering the Island, you feel like you have been transported into a traditional seafront fishing village, but with a twist. Amongst the quaint low slung buildings with large windows displaying beautiful crafts, art and baked goods, are the occasional scruffy industrial building, distillery, brewery and nautical shops. The combination creates an intriguing atmosphere that encourages the visitor to explore and discover.
Like Stanley Park, this is another Vancouver destination where you can go and spend hours enjoying yourself without spending lots of money. Unless you love to eat and shop! Then, I can’t help you. There are many, many wonderful places to do both on Granville Island. Your problem will be figuring out what to do first.
Here is a list of 10 of my favourite things on Granville Island. Once again, I focus on activities that are free or reasonably priced, although you will easily find ways to spend your money on Granville Island! Most activities listed are available 7 days a week, all year round, unless otherwise noted.
Granville Island Public Market
The Public Market is, simply put, a large building overflowing with food! There are stalls and tables filled with fresh fruit, seafood, and meat locally sourced. More refined offerings are also available and on display, such as baked goods, fresh pasta and home cooked sauces, cured meats and pate, and marinated meat and seafood for home cooking. Still further, there are local artisans selling their crafts and a food court. I challenge you to walk through this place and not come away nibbling on something delicious.
2. Street Performers
I don’t remember ever going to Granville Island and not seeing a street performer. Normally, there is one in front of the Public Market, and another behind it (as well as other spots all over Granville Island). These are very talented people. They audition for their place and are assigned times to perform.
These are free to the public, but I do encourage you to tip them if you enjoy their performance. They rely on them to make a living.
Granville Island is surrounded by the Seawall. The Seawall is the world’s largest uninterrupted waterfront path. It is 28km or 17mi and goes from Stanley Park to Spanish Banks Park (near the University of British Columbia).
Pick a direction and just start! You can’t go wrong. In each direction, there are spectacular water views, access to public beaches and parks, and delicious coffee shops and restaurants.
You can walk, bike or even inline skate along the Seawall. Reasonably priced rental bikes and helmets are available all over the city through Mobi, Vancouver’s public bike share system. You don’t have to return the bikes back to where you found them. Rather, drop them off at the next Mobi station nearest to your ultimate destination.
4. Aquabus Ferries
On a dock behind the Public Market, you will find the Aquabus Ferries. For a few dollars, you can ride these ferries all over False Creek (from the Burrard Street Bridge to Science World). What I love about the ferries is that you can use them practically – they connect Granville Island, Yaletown and Science World to each other – or you can use them for sightseeing and fun.
I can not tell you how many times I rode these ferries when my children were little. They were a wonderful inexpensive way to spend time on a boat and look at the beauty of Vancouver from a different perspective.
5. Shopping and Crafts
As mentioned earlier, Granville Island has many wonderful shops selling various items ranging from local artisan crafts, to incredible works of art from renowned artists, to everyday fashion and accessories. If you are looking for something unique or a keepsake from your trip to Vancouver, I would recommend looking here.
You can also watch artists and crafts people at work throughout Granville Island. Just yesterday, I spotted within a three minute walk a glass blower making an extraordinary pieces of art (Studio Glass); a blacksmith welding wrought iron (BC Blacksmith); and my favourite, a lady making handcrafted brooms that are both functional and works of art (Broom and Co.).
Beadworks is located in the Net Loft, next to the Public Market. It is a large store filled with beads of every kind, shape and colour.
What I love about this shop is that you can drop in and make your own jewelry or take a scheduled class. Kids are more than welcome. Staff are on hand to help guide and assist everyone. If you know that you would like to do this, or you are part of a large party, the store recommends that you contact them to make sure a table is set aside for you. This is a popular rainy day activity that appeals to both beginners and serious jewelry makers.
7. Vancouver Theatre Sports Improv Comedy
Next to the Public Market is Theatre Sports, an improv comedy show that has been a Vancouver staple for at least the last 30 years. Improv is a form of live theatre where the plot, characters and dialogue are made up in the moment, usually with the help of the audience. The shows are usually hilarious and unpredictable, and lots of fun.
Children as young as 7 years old are normally welcome to the early show, but there are some age restrictions so please double check what those are before purchasing a ticket for anyone younger than 19 years old. Tickets start around $11 USD and are well worth the price.
8. Kids Market
In a separate building in the middle of Granville Island is the Kids Market. This two story building is packed with toy stores and children’s activities. Even without children, I would recommend visiting the Kids Market. The stores are unique, both in what they offer and the whimsical setting in which many of the stores and their items sit.
On the top floor is the Adventure Zone, a perfect place to let your kids run off steam on a rainy or cold day. There is a multi-level jungle gym and arcade that will keep them occupied for hours.
9. Granville Island Water Park
Just behind the Kids Market, is the Water Park. From the end of May through to the beginning of September, everyone can enjoy this large waterpark. It is free and the kids love it! It is next to a lovely playground and picnic tables so come prepared for many hours of fun in the sun!
10. The Patio at the Dockside Restaurant
In my opinion, one of the best patios in all of Vancouver is found at the Dockside Restaurant in the Granville Island Hotel. It is located at the east side of Granville Island and has beautiful views of the Burrard Inlet, Science World and Yaletown.
The restaurant does not accept reservations for the patio, so come early to claim an outdoor table. However, you can make a reservation for inside seating. With floor to ceiling windows with views to the city and the Pacific Ocean, this isn’t a bad second choice!
This is the perfect place to relax, have a drink or a meal after a busy day exploring Granville Island.
Granville Island is a fantastic place to spend the day. Whether you are a child or an adult, a local or a tourist, Granville Island has so much to offer to keep you interested and entertained. Most importantly, don’t forget to come hungry!
For other Vancouver recommendations, please see:
- Stanley Park in Vancouver: 10 of My Favourite Things;
- My 5 Favourite Vancouver Beaches;
- Vancouver Airport with Kids: 7 Layover Ideas.
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