Granville Island

Granville Island, located in the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia, is not actually an island but a peninsula nestled under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. Though it covers only 35 acres, it is a bustling metropolis of culture, food, and art. With a rich history that dates back to the early 20th century, Granville Island has evolved from an industrial hub to one of Canada’s most visited cultural districts. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, the eclectic atmosphere of Granville Island offers something for everyone.

A Brief History

Originally known as Industrial Island, Granville Island was home to sawmills, factories, and warehouses in the early 1900s. However, as Vancouver evolved, so did the island. Through urban planning and creative repurposing, the area underwent a transformative revival in the late 20th century. Industrial buildings were converted into galleries, theaters, and markets. Today, the area is a harmonious blend of its industrial past and a cultural present.

What To Do In Granville Island?

On Granville Island, immerse yourself in a rich tapestry of cultural experiences. Begin at the Public Market, a sensory feast where artisans’ stalls brim with local produce and gourmet foods. Stroll through the Railspur Alley, alive with artists crafting everything from jewelry to textiles. Catch a riveting performance at one of the island’s intimate theaters, or indulge in a craft beer tasting at a local brewery. For a touch of adventure, rent a kayak to paddle the serene waters of False Creek. Conclude your visit with a tranquil walk along the waterfront, soaking in the vibrant atmosphere and picturesque views. Here’s a guide to some of the must-see and do experiences on Granville Island:

people shopping in granville island

Public Market

The Granville Island Public Market is the island’s centerpiece, housing an array of food vendors, artisans, and craft makers. Wander through the market to sample local cheeses, fresh produce, gourmet foods, and sweet treats. Don’t miss the chance to try some of the delicious ready-to-eat meals from various international cuisines.

Visit the Artisan Shops and Galleries

Granville Island is home to numerous artists and craftsmen. Take a stroll through the Railspur Alley to watch artists at work in their studios, and explore the various galleries showcasing everything from paintings and sculptures to jewelry and glassware.

Enjoy a Performance

The island boasts several performance venues, including the Granville Island Theatre and Arts Club Theatre Company. Check out the schedule and catch a play, musical, or live performance during your visit.

Take a Boat Ride

Situated by the False Creek inlet, Granville Island offers a variety of boat tours and rentals. Take a scenic ride on an Aquabus or False Creek Ferry, or rent a kayak or canoe to explore the waters at your own pace.

Visit the Kids’ Market

If you’re traveling with children, the Kids’ Market is a must-visit. This two-story market is dedicated to all things children, offering a variety of toy stores, clothing shops, and a fun play area.

Discover the Granville Island Brewing Co

Beer enthusiasts should make a stop at the Granville Island Brewing Co., one of Vancouver’s first microbreweries. Take a tour to learn about the brewing process and sample some of their delicious craft beers.

Enjoy the Outdoor Spaces

Granville Island has several parks and open spaces to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Ron Basford Park offers great views of the city, while the nearby Granville Island Water Park is a hit with kids during the summer months.

Indulge in Culinary Delights

The island is known for its food, and there are plenty of dining options to choose from. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, Italian, or Asian cuisine, you’ll find something to satisfy your taste buds.

Attend a Festival or Event

Granville Island hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, ranging from food and drink festivals to cultural celebrations and art shows. Check the island’s event calendar to see what’s happening during your visit.

Shop for Souvenirs

Before you leave, be sure to pick up some souvenirs to remember your visit. The Public Market and various artisan shops offer a range of unique and locally made items, perfect for gifts or keepsakes.

sign of granville island
Photo Credit: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos

Water Activities to Do on Granville Island

Granville Island is a hub for a variety of water-based activities that cater to all ages and preferences. Here’s a rundown of some popular aquatic adventures you can embark on:

  1. Kayaking and Canoeing: Paddle around False Creek in a kayak or canoe, taking in the views of the city and the bustling waterfront. Rentals and guided tours are available for all skill levels.
  2. Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP): For a more modern take on paddling, try stand-up paddleboarding. It provides a great workout and a fun way to navigate the waters.
  3. Boating: Rent a motorboat and cruise around False Creek or venture out into English Bay. You can enjoy the sights at your own pace.
  4. Sailing: There are sailing schools and charters on Granville Island that offer lessons for beginners and rental options for experienced sailors.
  5. Dragon Boating: Join the community of dragon boaters for a team paddling experience. It’s a social sport that’s deeply rooted in Vancouver’s watersport activities.
  6. Aquabus Tours: Hop on one of the small ferries for a scenic tour around False Creek. While not as physically demanding, it’s a pleasant way to enjoy the water.
  7. Fishing: You can join a chartered fishing trip and try your luck at catching local species in the surrounding waters.
  8. Cultural and Historical Boat Tours: Some operators offer guided boat tours that provide insights into the history and culture of the area, including the indigenous heritage.

How to Go TO Granville Island?

Granville Island, a hub of activity, culture, and cuisine in Vancouver, is accessible through various modes of transportation, each offering a unique perspective of the city.

From Down Town Vancouver: For those coming from downtown Vancouver, the most picturesque way to reach Granville Island is by water. The Aquabus and False Creek Ferries provide a charming and efficient service, with small, colorful vessels making frequent crossings from several points along the downtown waterfront. These mini-ferries allow passengers to enjoy panoramic views of the city skyline and the bustling activity along False Creek.

Driving: If you prefer to drive, Granville Island is just a short trip over the Granville Street Bridge. Parking on the island can be limited, especially during peak times, but there are pay parking lots available. It’s advisable to arrive early, particularly on weekends or during special events, to secure a spot.

Public transit is another convenient option. Buses run regularly from various locations, including downtown Vancouver. Passengers can disembark at stops within a short walking distance to Granville Island, making it an eco-friendly and stress-free choice.

Cycling to the island is yet another option, thanks to Vancouver’s extensive network of bike lanes. Secure bike racks are available throughout the island, making it easy for cyclists to park and explore on foot.

For those looking for a more vigorous approach, walking to Granville Island is entirely possible and enjoyable. It’s a pleasant walk from many parts of the city, including Kitsilano and the Olympic Village, with well-marked pedestrian routes guiding you to the island.

Granville Island is an encapsulation of what makes Vancouver such a dynamic city: a mix of the old and new, a blend of cultures, and a love for the natural beauty that surrounds it. This small peninsula offers a diverse range of experiences, making it a must-visit destination for anyone who finds themselves in Vancouver. From its bustling Public Market to its art studios and theaters, Granville Island offers a unique, vibrant experience that captures the essence of one of Canada’s most beautiful cities.


Is there parking available on Granville Island?

Yes, there is both paid and limited free parking available on Granville Island, though it can get busy, especially on weekends and during events.

What are the hours of the Public Market?

The Public Market typically opens from 9 AM to 7 PM, seven days a week, but it’s best to check the current hours of operation before your visit as they can change seasonally or during holidays.

Are there dining options on Granville Island?

Yes, there are numerous dining options ranging from casual eats to fine dining, as well as food vendors in the Public Market offering a variety of local and international cuisines.

Can I take a guided tour of Granville Island?

Yes, guided tours are available, which can offer an in-depth look at the island’s history, culture, and food. Some tours focus specifically on the Public Market.

Is Granville Island accessible to people with disabilities?

Granville Island aims to be accessible to all, with wheelchair-accessible paths, buildings, and facilities. However, due to some historic buildings, there may be areas with limited access.

Is Granville Island kid-friendly?

Absolutely. Granville Island has many attractions for children, including the Kids’ Market, a water park (closed until 2024 summer), and family-friendly performances.

Can I bring my pet to Granville Island?

Pets are welcome on the streets and parks of Granville Island, but only service animals are allowed inside the Public Market.

What are the best times to visit Granville Island?

Early mornings on weekdays are typically less crowded, while weekends and holidays are busier but offer more street performers and activities.

Is Granville Island Free?

It’s free to enter and you can do a lot of stuff for free. If you want to do something specific, look for the info on their website.

Can you Kayak on Granville Island?

Yes, kayaking is a popular activity around Granville Island. The calm waters of False Creek provide an excellent area for paddling and offer a unique vantage point to view the city and the island. There are several rental shops on Granville Island where you can rent kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddleboards. For both beginners and experienced paddlers, there are opportunities to take lessons or join guided tours that will take you around the creek and even under the Granville Street Bridge. It’s a fantastic way to explore the area and get some exercise while enjoying the beautiful scenery that Vancouver has to offer.