Granville Island holds a special place in the hearts of many Vancouverites — myself included.
When I was little, it was the perfect place for a day trip with my parents, with hours spent exploring the Granville Island Water Park or listening to live music on the pier. However, when I rediscovered the Island as an adult, it quickly reclaimed its title as one of my favourite spots in the city.
I’d recently moved into a (very) small apartment in South Granville, and the close proximity of Granville Island meant it was easy to wander down on a Sunday morning to shop for groceries. Visits almost always included grabbing a cup of coffee and a Siegel’s bagel.
But as I spent more time in the area, it became clear just how much there is to see and do on Granville Island. Even if you’ve visited many times in the past, there’s always something new to discover — whether that’s paddleboarding around Kitsilano, pulling a fresh lobster out of a tank to take home for dinner, or biting into one of the crispiest fried chicken sandwiches the city has to offer.
This summer, Granville Island is missing much of its tourist crowd, meaning there’s more space for locals to explore, relax, and stretch out. If you haven’t visited in a while (or even if, like me, you stop by most weekends), here are some of my favourite gems to look for on your next trip.
Sip and savour
There’s maybe no better way to spend a day in Vancouver than by eating your way around Granville Island.
In the Public Market, you can embark on a culinary scavenger hunt, visiting iconic shops like Benton Brothers Fine Cheese and Lee’s Donuts. More room has been made throughout the space, helping locals feel comfortable as they shop for groceries.
For dining with a view, make a reservation at one of the acclaimed restaurants that dot the Island. The Sandbar boasts “views from every seat” and an in-house Hoshi Sushi bar. If you’re still thinking about that aforementioned fried chicken sandwich, pull up a chair in Popina Canteen, a restaurant housed in a refurbished shipping container. Only stopping in for a pint? Granville Island Brewing Co. has you covered.
My suggestion for takeout, West Coast style? Stop by The Lobster Man just before it closes at 6 pm and pick up a fresh lobster or crab and a bag of locally-sourced oysters. You get to pick them right out of the tank, making this a memorable start to an incredible night of local seafood.
Get on the water
Located on the shores of False Creek, Granville Island is one of the best destinations for a day by the water. But if all this talk of seaside views and seafood has you craving more, there are many ways to actually get on the water during your visit.
Your options for exploring the harbour are plentiful, from paddleboards and kayaks, to boat rentals, and even specialty BBQ boats. If you prefer to let someone else do the driving, you can also hitch a ride with False Creek Ferries, which can carry you on a tour of some of the best attractions around False Creek.
For further voyages off shore, Prince of Whales will take you on an environmentally sustainable whale-watching adventure, which lasts about five hours round-trip. It’s the kind of thing any Vancouverite should cross off their bucket list sooner or later.
Go on an arts crawl
Did you know that Granville Island is home to a thriving arts community called the Railspur Artisan District? That’s right. Tucked on the easternmost part of the Island, this district is home to small galleries and studios you won’t find anywhere else in the city.
Begin with a stop at Vancouver Studio Glass, a glassblowing studio where you can watch as the artists craft their wares in blazing kilns that line the walls. Browse hand-painted silks at Alarte, leather goods at Hartman Leather, and try on one-of-a-kind jewellery that’s been hand-crafted with precious metals and stones at Aurum Argentum Goldsmiths. You’ll find unique, locally made housewares at Granville Island Broom Company.
Finish your crawl with a stop at The Liberty Distillery, where you can taste their handcrafted spirits, all of which are made on-site using only 100% organic BC grain. Sake lovers would be wise to visit Artisan Sake Maker and ask for Masa Shiroki, the proprietor and sake maker. He’ll welcome you with a single tasting for $2.50, or you can try the three styles of sake for $6.
Granville Island is a go-to destination for entertaining guests from out of town, but it’s also an oasis of charming boutiques, wonderful West Coast fare, and extraordinary experiences that will delight even the seasoned Vancouverite.
To make it easier to plan your visit, parking is currently free everywhere on Granville Island, so you can park your car and stay for a while without worrying about refilling the meter.
For more information about what’s currently open and to receive recommendations for your perfect day trip to Granville Island, visit granvilleisland.com.