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Granville Island: A Local’s Guide To The 10 Best Things To Do

Even better, they are mostly free or pretty inexpensive!

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Granville Island is another Vancouver destination that is equally loved by locals and tourists alike. Lucky for me, I should know. I have lived in Vancouver for almost 30 years and Granville Island has never been more than a 15 minute drive away. 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. There are many fun or interesting things to do.

Like Stanley Park, you can go to Granville Island 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 marvelous places to do both on Granville Island. Your problem will be figuring out what to do first and then, whether you can control yourself from the countless temptations that will surround you.

 

Burrard Inlet at Granville Island
Burrard Inlet and Burrard Street Bridge.

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Granville Island Location

Granville Island 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.

 

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 you to explore and discover.

 

Shopping at Granville Island
A shop at Granville Island selling beautiful handicrafts.

 

My Favourite Things To Do On Granville Island

Here is a list of my 10 favourite things to do on Granville Island. Once again, I focus on activities that are free or pretty inexpensive, 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.

 

1. 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.

 

Fresh produce at Granville Island

 

Crafts at Granville Island
Craft stalls in the Public Market

 

Public Market at Granville Island
Oyama stall selling their own delicious cured meats and pate.

 

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.

 

3. Seawall

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.

 

Aquabus Station at Granville Island
Aquabus station at Granville Island

 

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.).

Studio Glass at Granville Island
Studio Glass workshop

 

BC Blacksmith at Granville Island
Beautiful works of art by BC Blacksmith

 

Broom Co at Granville Island
Watching the lady hand make beautiful brooms at Broom Co.

 

6. Beadworks

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.

 

Beadworks at Granville Island

 

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.

 

Inside Kids Market at Granville Market
Jack and the Beanstalk at the entrance to the Kids Market

 

Toys at Kids Market at Granville Island
Kites and stuffed animals, a kid’s delight.

 

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.

 

Dockside Main Patio at Granville Island

 

Accommodation on Granville Island

On a separate note, the Granville Island Hotel would be an awesome location for your stay in Vancouver. You would be a short walk to everything offered in Granville Island, including lots of restaurants not even discussed here. In addition, you would be in a great spot to explore the rest of Vancouver. For more information about accommodation at the Granville Island Hotel, or to search for other accommodation in Vancouver, I would recommend taking a look at the interactive map below.



Booking.com

 

Conclusion

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:

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Granville Island in Vancouver is a fantastic spot to spend a day. There are lots of activities to do that would entertain people of all ages. After countless visits over the years, here are my favourites. What are you going to do first? #travel #familytravel #travelwithkids #Canada #BritishColumbia| Aquabus, Beadworks, Burrard Inlet, crafts, Dockside Restaurant, ferry, Kids Market, Mobi, Pacific Ocean, Public Market, Seawall, shopping, Stanley Park, street performers, Theatre Sports, water park

20 Comments

  • This blog is great! Often I “forget” about the gems we have in our city and you have inspired me to get the family out!

    • I really felt that the other day when I went down to take photos. I immediately went home and said to my daughter, “We are going to Granville Island this weekend!”

  • Vancouver looks amazing – I met some really cool people from the city and I would definitely love to check it out some day. Love the Public Market and biking the seawall would definitely be right up my street!

    • Hopefully, you can make it here soon. If you are an outdoorsy person then there is endless things for you to do here.

  • I’m kind of glad I haven’t been to Vancouver yet so I can add this to the list of places to see when I go. I love anything boat related so the ferry sounds like a lot of fun and I don’t have kids, but I feel like I’d still have a great time at the Kids’ Market. #WeekendWanderlust

    • Vancouver is surrounded by water. There is lots and lots of things that you will be able to do when you visit that will be either on or near the water. I think you will love it!

  • Hi!!

    I remember visiting this place as a child. And visiting almost all the places you listed here. And you´re right. They´re very recommendable for anyone basically. I especially loved the street performers. And the crafts market. I think everyone visiting Vancouver should come here.

    Thanks for the post and reminding me of these wonderful memories

  • Wow, that sea wall sounds MASSIVE! It’s got to be a great place for a stroll and to find some nice spots for a drink and some people watching. What a special place in your own backyard!

  • It looks like Granville Island is so much like Montreal especially when you mentioned about the Aquabus Ferries and the market. I have never been to Granville Island but I think I would enjoy the market so much just as much as I enjoyed going to the markets in Montreal like Jean-Talon and Atwater.

    • I went to school in Montreal and I think that you are right, Granville Island would make you feel at home. The markets, food and restaurants are absolutely fantastic.

  • I love the Public Market, especially Lee’s Donuts there. Clam chowders are a must-try too for first time visitors although I hate how expensive it is! Just discovered Broom Co. recently too and it’s totally like a Harry Potter back to school supply shop hahaa. Guess I need to hit up Granville Island again this weekend for some treats!

    • I loved Broom Co. It is so unusual and so quintessential Granville Island. Someone handcrafts beautiful brooms?? It was so cool to see.

  • Wow! so nice blog on Granville Island, I have never been there because I really dont have idea about the place. In your blog you have described about the Stanley Park and other places. I also came to know after reading your blog that this island is famous for the beautiful handicrafts, Public Market is full of all types of vegetables and fruits that I really love. I would love to visit very soon.

    • I think that you would love the vegetables and fruit, and all the meals that are vegetarian and vegan. And the handicrafts are very beautiful and special.

    • Lol! That’s awesome! Now the question is what did you eat while you were in there?? Anyways, I hope you enjoyed Granville Island!

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