Granville Island is a must see area whenever you are visiting Vancouver, even the locals cannot get enough of the place year round and for good reason too. The Island is notably home to the busy Granville Market (Vancouver’s answer to Seattle’s Pike Place Market) and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Before we explain in detail about what the Island has to offer, we will like to share with you a little piece of the history in the creation of the island.
Vancouver was originally to be named the city of Granville, however, in 1886 it was decided to be renamed as Vancouver after the Captain George Vancouver (Born, 22nd June 1757 and Died 10th May 1798) he was an English officer of the British-Royal Navy, his name has also been commemorated with Vancouver Island and a few other cities throughout the Pacific Northwest of Canada and the US. The names Granville were then decided to be used for the busy arterial street that runs through the heart of Downtown Vancouver from North to South, (including Granville Bridge which spans over False Creek and Granville Island) all the way to southern most point of the City towards the Fraser River.
The Island itself was born out of an Industry boom due to the Port of Vancouver’s increasing growth. The location itself was once a natural Sandbar within the Creek, with industry evolving and traffic increasing, action was taken to try and stabilize the Sandbar where it could be used for the overall purpose of Real Estate and Industry. Not an easy task, it was determined by the current government at the time that the Sandbar with the formation of a man made Island was more of hazard to maritime operations within the Creek.
Around the turn of the century the Sandbar was finally stabilized and the Island began to take the shape that we are familiar with today. Many of the buildings that were built within the early part of the 20th century are still standing today, this includes the building that is home to the Granville Island Public Market. At the northern end of the Market facing the Creek-side you have the well known restaurant called The Sandbar, named in homage to the original natural Sandbank on which the island has been built.
During the great depression and the Second World War there was a gradual decline in the Industrial operations that occurred on the Island, this led to massive decay and a decline to all manner of operations, the buildings and the area suffered somewhat until the 1970s. It was During the 70s that the Government at the time decided that a family friendly space for tourism in mind should be created here, with money well spent, it was to be the beginning of the transformation to what we have today.
To get a good idea of whats on offer to show its diversity.
1) Arts and Craft.
The Maritime and Duranleau Studios are found next to the unmistakably large Red Boat barn that is located to the Granville Bridge passing high overhead, here you will come across Painting shops, Jewelry stores and Print making shops among many other art and Craft boutique stores. Then East of the Granville Bridge you will come across the centrally located Railspur Alley this beutiful cobbled stone alley is the hub of the Arts and Craft with well over 16 shops at work along the alley, here you will find Canada’s very first of its kind Sake making brewery, crafts made from Leather Workshops, Silk making and more…!
2) Family and Young Children.
Granville Island should be a family affair, and it really does not disappoint when it comes to keeping Children entertained, sometimes the adults can become more excited than the little ones! Aside from the Granville Market, there is also The Kids Market which is found under the Granville Bridge opposite the Granville Island Brewery. Here you can let your children wander around and search for great toys, games, clothes and be able to partake and enjoy themselves with Arts and Crafts that the Market has to offer, also included are the family Arcades, a two tier indoor playground and rooms on offer for Children’s parties and many more activities to keep everyone occupied and entertained.
Granville Island is very famous for its buskers that are dotted around the Island throughout the year, generally you will get to see and enjoy the majority of the buskers between May and September, however, you will be sure to fined, a handful of long term regulars entertaining the masses all year round.
The Island grants permits to roughly around 100 Buskers from Magicians to Musicians you will get to see it all!
4) Wine and Dine
If the Market is not enough for you, and you are in need of a good sit down meal and somewhere to drink, there are quite a few options for you to choose from all over the Island.
Among many, we at the Sunset do have some favorite spots to recommend. So we will offer our top picks for you to choose from….
The Sandbar…located next to the Public Market beneath the Granville Bridge, this is a very popular joint with excellent food, service and views. At the entrance is a Sushi Bar, on the 2nd Floor which is the main area of the Sandbar you will find the Bar and restaurant area, various evenings you can be entertained with their in-house regular Piano Guy to swoon you through the evening. The 3rd level is the balcony with excellent views of False Creek, at the restaurant you will be spoiled with an excellent choice of seafood and more…
Edible Canada… Brand new to Granville Island and is located at the central hub of the Island, showing off a great Patio where you can watch buskers, and the people milling around the Island all day…..Edible promotes local and Canadian artisan sustainable products from their venue and their Market Stall, and also offer a large variety of sauces, preserves and chutneys, cheeses, chocolates and specialty tools!!!
Go Fish…So you like Fish and Chips? You will like it even better if the Fish is fresh….even caught just a few hours before? Well this is the right place for you…located a few minutes walk South of the Island towards the southern Marina, this little blue open air shack IS the place to go for a real deal Fish and Chips experience!!! This Fish was literally fished and caught a mere few hours prior to it being a Fishy on your Dishy……enjoy, you will NOT be disappointed! Get there early as once the Food runs out on the day, that is it till the next catch…
Liberty Wine, High End Wine Store – Many of us after a long day will always like to just put our feet up with some good food, maybe a movie and an awesome wine to wash it down with, well luckily for you on Granville Island you have Liberty Wine Merchants! These guys know their wine and have an extensive selection of Wines, Ice wines, Ports, Vermouth’s and Ciders for you to enjoy, ALL Sunset Inn guests are entitled to 10% off…please ask at the front desk for the customer number.
Granville Island Brewery…Probably Vancouvers’ most well known Brewery, located in the center of the Island, here you can take a tour around the brewery and enjoy their samples of Beers they have on offer, with the range getting ever bigger overtime you can indulge and learn about the beer making process after your tour, you can also drop in for a quick drink during your Island visit, they also have a liquor and gift store on site. Another mention is the Artisan Sake Maker, this is truly a hidden gem on the Island, proud to boast that this is the first of its kind in Canada, like the GI brewery you can also enjoy a tour and sample the Sake made on site by the brilliant Sake Maker Masa Shiroki.
5) Seawall and Marina… The Seawall around the Island actually winds it way all around False Creek heading towards the east, and towards the West you can find yourself walking towards Kitsilano point and Vanier Park. You can easily walk pretty far along the Seawall which is something we highly recommend…..the Island is surrounded by a Marina, so if Boats and Yachts are your thing, you are going to be seriously spoiled.
6)Theatre Granville Island is home to plenty of theatrical entertainment…..lot and lots to choose from, such as The Arts Club theater, Carousel Theater and the Axis Theater to name a few.
To get to and from the Island there are various options, the easiest route of all is by walking from the Hotel South on Thurlow Street, in around 10 minutes you will find yourself at the seawall and The False Creek Ferry Jetty.
Further along beyond the Burrard Bridge, you will fine a similar service that is known as the Aquabus. Other alternatives are the Translink Bus No 50 from Granville Street, or if you feel energetic and fancy along scenic walk, try walking over the Iconic Burrard Street Bridge.
However you get there, we are sure you will have an unforgettable experience at the Island…..enjoy!