One memorable stop that many visitors do make and enjoy, is Granville Island, a 15 hectare (38 acre) piece of land with a year-round public food indoor market, shops, restaurants, cafes, art studios, park, community centre with a kayaking facility and much more.
Every year over 10 million people, visit Granville to shop, attend events or just hang out for beautiful scenery within the heart of Vancouver.
The island was originally a mudflat that disappeared with the ebb and flow of daily tides. It was occupied by the Squamish Nation where they fished and had their villages nearby.
In the early 1900’s, the land was built up for permanent structures which became primarily for shipping and industrial activity. After World War II, the Island fell in decline until the 1970’s when there was planned rejuvenation and development of the island to its present waterfront vibrancy.
You can shop there for fresh seafood, local and some international gourmet foods ranging from local Oyama’s handmade sausages with over 20 types (Sake chicken sausage or venison are among some choices.), to sea asparagus available only in summer time, a salty tiny seaweed harvested along the coast. There are art studios for British Columbian quality handmade art work and crafts, a culinary cooking school where the students offer up a daily, changing menu of delectable choices, an assortment of restaurants and bars, a hotel for enjoying the local spirits, and the nationally recognized art school, Emily Carr University. Occasionally the school has free rotating art exhibits. There is an art and design bookstore.
There is also theatre with indoor seating for plays as well as the outdoor mini public spaces where buskers perform their song, dance and skits daily.
On Granville Island, car parking is tight. Locals, like myself who frequent the market at least once or more weekly, use alternative transportation modes –the TransLink No. 50 bus takes you to and from Granville with the start and drop off point downtown at Waterfront Station. I regularily cycle the flat route to the market from home downtown. You can wind your way to the market along the Seaside-Seawall path to and from Stanley Park. Since 2010, more bike racks have been installed to accommodate growing evidence of cycling shoppers and visitors.
On a rainy day or if you can’t be bothered to stroll along the path (it’s a 7 km. walk from downtown or less) one way, there are small water boat shuttles for a small fee that will take you across. One of the shuttles is designed for passengers with bikes and strollers. The longest ride is from Yaletown dock (under 10 min.) whereas the other rides are shorter for a scenic look on water. Either way, you will see a range of multi-family housing developments, Northwest coast landscaping, the waterfront and skyline and Burrard Inlet out to English Bay against the rising backdrop of the North Shore mountains.
Granville Island is cradled by the skyscrapered downtown core, the mountains, and the busy Broadway St. corridor on the south side. You can also reach the Granville Market by bike on a separated bike lane over the Art Deco Burrard Bridge or stroll beside the bike lane 3 kms. to Granville Island from downtown.
Whether at sunrise, near sunset or any time, Granville Island offers a highly accessible oasis of human activity, scenery and relaxation from busy city life.