Almost a city within a city, Granville Island is a good place to browse away a morning, an afternoon, or a whole day. You can wander through a busy public market jammed with food stalls, shop for crafts, pick up fresh seafood, enjoy a great dinner, watch the latest theater performance, rent a yacht, stroll along the waterfront, or simply run through the sprinkler on a hot summer day; it’s all there and more. If you have only a short period of time, make sure you spend at least part of it in the Granville Island Public Market, one of the best in North America.
Once a declining industrial site, Granville Island started transforming in the late 1970s when the federal government encouraged new, people-friendly developments. The former warehouses and factories now house galleries, artist studios, restaurants, and theaters; the cement plant on the waterfront is the only industrial tenant left. Access to Granville Island is by harbor ferry from the West End, Yaletown, or Kitsilano or by foot, bike, or car across the bridge/causeway at Anderson Street. Avoid driving over on weekends and holidays—you’ll spend more time trying to find a parking place than in the galleries.
While you’re on the island, be sure to check out Railspur Alley, where you’ll find artists’ studios, cafes, fine jewelry, and the Artisan Sake Maker. You’ll also find the small-batch Liberty Distillery and Granville Island Brewing on the island, as well as a terrific wine shop, Liberty Wine Merchants, and several bars and restaurants. The patios at Bridges, Edible Canada, or the Dockside Restaurant are a great place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Also drop in on Net Loft, a sort of craftsy mall where you’ll find works by local potters and other artisans at Circle Craft, as well as the great Blackberry Books, a kitchen wares shop, a fancy paper store, and First Nations fashion designs. For even more pretty, or at least interesting, things to look at, check out the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, which often has exhibits of student art.
There are also four theaters on the island, the Kids Market, marina, kayak rentals, parks, and a farmers market on Thursdays in summer.