The Getaway
Where You Must Go on Granville Island

Granville Island has been called North America's best neighborhood, and its legendary Public Market is one of the continent's best. Visiting this almost-island near downtown Vancouver is pretty much mandatory if you're visiting this great British Columbia city. Once a mud flat and then an industrial site, Granville Island is now a hip and happening culinary destination and innovative arts mecca with galleries and artisanal shops aplenty. Get here with a foot ferry, and you'll avoid congested traffic.

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01 Granville Island Public Market

Granville Island Public Market on May 17, 2007 in Vancouver, Canada. It's home to over 100 vendors offering fresh seafood, meats, sweets and European specialty foods. DeymosHR / Shutterstock.com

Granville Island Public Market is where it's at if you're after cosmopolitan cuisine and the best kind of sensory overload. You'll find flavors from all corners of the globe and souvenir-worthy arts and crafts at this covered market, a Vancouver highlight. Consider a foodie tour here if yumminess is your passion. If you have a sweet tooth, Lee's Donuts is an institution—be sure to try one of their fun flavors, including matcha, raspberry jelly, honey dip, and mango. Prefer something more savory? The salmon chowder pot pie from A la Mode is popular. Once you get your food, you can sit and watch the buskers do their thing or head to Vanier Park for a picnic. Parking at Granville Island Public Market isn't fun, so you might want to mentally prepare for a walk or take a water taxi.

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02 A Bread Affair

October 29 2022- People are sitting outside of a bread affair organic bakery in Granville Island Vancouver, BC Canada Rosalie Che / Shutterstock.com

Excuse us while we take a bite, die, and go to heaven. This artisanal bakery is known for its organic, locally sourced ingredients, handcrafted breads, and friendly staff. Do yourself a favor and order one of their famous sandwiches like the "Turkey in a Dress" and leave some space for dessert in the form of an ice cream sandwich, salted caramel bread pudding, a zesty Mandarin Orange scone, or a buttery croissant. Grab some delicious choc chip cookies to go.

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03 Maritime Market and Marina

At the centrally located and bustling Maritime Market and Marina, visitors can explore nautical shops, enjoy waterfront dining, and rent or buy equipment for an array of water-based activities. Charter a fishing boat, learn how to sail, get familiar with scuba diving, or repair your precious yacht. The Maritime Market and Marina hosts water sports and boating events like the family-friendly Vancouver International Boat Show.

04 Granville Island Brewing Co.

Founded in 1984, Granville Island Brewing Co. is a worthy stop on any Granville Island itinerary. Locals often take out-of-towners to "Canada's First Microbrewery" for its fab pub grub, clean, vibey setting, and reasonable prices in a touristy location just a stone's throw from the Public Market. Burgers, poutine, tacos, waffle fries, and pierogis are just some of what's on the menu, along with a great cheese selection. Tour guides teach visitors about the history of beer, and you can also check out the gift shop for some merch. Granville Island Brewing Co. recently underwent renovations, so the space is set to get even better.

 

05 Emily Carr University of Art + Design

The Emily Carr University of Art and Design signage with a background of a building in Vancouver, Canada Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock.com

The renowned Emily Carr University of Art + Design, established in 1925, was based in Granville Island between 1980 and 2017 before moving to Great Northern Way. With a century under its belt, it's come to play a significant role in the regional arts and media community. Visit its public galleries and peruse student exhibitions. You'll appreciate the multifaceted creativity on display. The Libby Leshgold Gallery highlights contemporary art from makers of different backgrounds.

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06 Net Loft

Outside of Net Loft haseg77 / Shutterstock.com

You'll find Net Loft if you cross the street south of the Granville Island Public Market. This shopping complex is packed with unique boutiques and delightful specialty items, from musical instruments to textile and book shops. Stationery lovers will be in their element, with all the fancy pens and exquisite paper lining stores like Paper-Ya. Stock up on scrapbooking supplies, kitchenware, jewelry, and more. This is a fantastic spot to explore when the weather's terrible.

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07 Kayaking and paddleboarding

Kayaker and other boaters in False Creek Inlet under Blue Sky on a beautiful Spring Day Harry Beugelink / Shutterstock.com

If you want to watch dragon boat teams paddle their way through False Creek, you can easily do that on Granville Island. But why not get stuck in? Vancouver Water Adventures can hook you up with an experienced guide and all the necessary gear. Go SUPing in protected waters at sunset—your glow-in-the-dark paddleboard and exceptional perspective of the nighttime skyline may become one of your favorite Vancouver memories. With loads of 5-star reviews, free 48-hour cancellations, and the lowest price guarantee, you should be in good hands.

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08 Granville Island Theatre District

There's a vibrant theatre scene on Granville Island, and it's leveled up ever since the Theatre District was formed in 2018. You'll find dance, comedy, and spectacular productions at this cultural hub full of venues hosting local and international troupes. The New Emergent Studio Theatre (The NEST, also known as Festival House) hosts the Vancouver Fringe Festival and the Writers' Fest. The Waterfront Theatre often puts on live performances for children and families, and Performance Works plays with more experimental and indie fare. Audiences are in for a treat, whether at the Brazilian Carnaval or the Canadian Improv Games.

09 Kids Market

The entrance to Kids Market on Granville Island, which houses various stores and activities for kids and families. thelittlecactus / Shutterstock.com

The Kids Market is a mall bursting with toys, interactive play spaces, and attractions like the nearby Adventure Zone and Water Park. Test out puppets at the puppet shop, and have a ball with bumper cars, VR experiences, and climbing areas. Lots of fun awaits for little ones and adults alike. With clowns doing the rounds, magicians sprinkled in for good measure, and face painters transforming visages, you may just want to return the next day.

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10 Art galleries and studios

The art galleries and studios scattered across Granville Island showcase pieces from local and international artists in various mediums. Think stone sculptures, paintings, photography, and silk weaving, among other visual art specialties. Ukama Gallery features Zimbabwean art, while Eagle Spirit Gallery focuses on works by Northwest Coast Native, Inuit & First Nations artists. Ceramics, glass, metal, and wood—watch as these materials take on new forms and meanings and inspire your personal creative process.

11 Granville Island Boat Rentals and Tours

The colorful Aquabus has been in operation since 1986 and is wheelchair and pet-friendly. It will take you sightseeing via the waters of False Creek. Aquabus stops at eight dock locations, including Granville Island, Spyglass Place, and Science World. You don't have to wait long (only 15 minutes) for a vessel from the fleet to show up at every stop. False Creek Ferries is another popular option and covers many of the same spots on its route. You can just show up without making a reservation, and the company's cruises throw in tidbits about the history and geography of the area. A Day Pass can save you some money. Some guided tours include a snack or meal, and an outfit like Prince of Whales offers whale watching and other marine wildlife sightings.

12 Dining on Granville Island

We've already whet your appetite with the Public Market, but what else can your tastebuds look forward to while on Granville Island? You'll find something to suit your palate, from casual eateries to fine dining incorporating fresh, seasonal ingredients. Gobble up surf and turf at The Keg Steakhouse, or have a sushi feast at The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant under the Granville Island Bridge. The Sandbar's sablefish, scallops, and seafood hot pots get the thumbs up, too. Live music and gorgeous patio views make this a solid option for a date night or meet-up with friends. Tony's Fish and Oyster Cafe is more laidback, but so satisfying. Try their banana flambe dessert. For more Middle Eastern flavors, head for Afghan Horsemen, which is located a 5-minute walk away from the island, and for a bougie plate, you'll want to go to the Pacific Institute of Culinary Art's Blue Hat Bistro.

13 Granville Island festivals

From Lunar New Year celebrations and PuSh Festival shows to the Vancouver International Flamenco Festival, Granville Island welcomes the world to its doorstep with a range of exciting cultural events. The Blind Pig Music Festival is new on the scene and elevates local musicians. Vancouver International Children's Festival is as wholesome as it sounds, and Christmas Fest will warm you right up during the holidays. And again, Vancouver Fringe Fest and Writer's Fest are some of the city's finest performing arts and literary bonanzas.

14 Walking the seawall

People at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, Canada on July 30, 2015. Park visitors walk, bike, roll, and fish on the 22 kilometers seawall route. Asif Islam / Shutterstock.com

This is one of the most scenic routes in Vancouver, with views of the city, mountains, and sea. It's catnip for photographers. The South False Creek Sea Wall forms part of the Seaside Greenway, the world's longest uninterrupted waterfront path. The 17-mile walkway is beloved for recreation, and you'll come across joggers, cyclists, and inline skaters. Do your fair share of people watching, and stick to the just over a mile long stretch between Cambie Street Bridge and Granville Island, or venture beyond to the Stanley Park section.

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15 Railspur Alley

Granville Island's tenants are mainly artists and creatives. Railspur Alley has a more relaxed atmosphere than the Public Market and houses artisan workshops where visitors can watch craftspeople at work and purchase handmade goods ranging from sake to soap. The Railspur district includes Old Bridge Road. Admire hand-painted silks, watch as glassblowers forge delicate beauties with flames, shop for leather bags, or learn how to make brooms so you can enter either your witchy or domestic era.

16 Ocean Concrete

Ocean Concrete, now Heidelberg Materials, is an unexpected attraction. The six huge silos here have been transformed into glorious 70-foot tall public art by the talented street artists OSGEMEOS. "Giants" is a commissioned mural you won't want to miss seeing in person. Even the trucks and containers at the plant are canvases for colorful expression. Brazilian twins Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo are graffiti maestros who used 1,400 cans of spray paint to produce this Vancouver landmark.

17 Lee's Donuts

Lee's Donuts coffee doughnut company and quick service restaurant-January 20,2021-Langley BC, Canada. Street photo, selective focus. Elena_Alex_Ferns / Shutterstock.com

Lee's Donuts, a Granville Island Public Market staple, has been serving up joy in the form of doughy, sweet perfection since 1979. Founded by the dynamic duo Alan and Betty-Ann Lee, this mom-and-pop shop has become a must-visit for both locals and tourists alike. Each donut is handcrafted daily from scratch, using only the freshest ingredients, ensuring that every bite is as delightful as the last. From the classic honey dip to more adventurous flavors, Lee's Donuts offers a familiar yet uniquely satisfying experience that keeps patrons coming back for more. Whether you're in for a quick treat or a dozen to share, Lee's ensures a fast, friendly service that's as warm as their freshly made donuts.

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18 Adventure Zone

While away the hours on an assortment of arcade games or burn off excess juvenile energy at the two-story jungle gym near Kids Market. Adventure Zone's indoor playground now works on a card system, not a ticket system, which is much more convenient for playing games and getting prizes, and machines are often repaired and updated. Between the ball pit and toddler games, and virtual soccer and hockey matches, your munchkins won't be bored anytime soon, and you'll have a good view of them from the seating areas.

19 Artisan sake making

Nestled among Granville Island's myriad attractions, the Artisan Sake Maker stands as a testament to the island's culinary diversity. As Canada's first boutique premium sake winery, it offers visitors an intimate glimpse into the meticulous craft of sake production. Here, Masa Shiroki, the proprietor and sake maker, takes pride in producing small lots of sake, aspiring to create new styles that reflect the unique terroir of British Columbia. A visit to the Artisan Sake Maker is not just a tasting experience; it's an educational journey into the heart of Japanese tradition, tailored for the curious minds of Vancouver.

20 False Creek Community Centre

False Creek Community Centre is a low-key public recreation complex with fitness facilities. Engage in some pottery-making, canoeing, and general R&R. Group classes for older adults and young kids attract a diverse crowd, and basketball, tennis court, and sauna facilities are available. The space is wheelchair-friendly, the bathrooms are gender-neutral and welcoming, and many activities are free.

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