Recently, Dave Moyer and I spent a week in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, attending conferences and working long hours. On our way out of town, we took a few hours out to visit Granville Island, a favorite touristy hot spot in Vancouver I’ve enjoyed visiting since I was a child. Having been a couple decades since my last visit, I was stunned to discover so little had changed and yet how much it had improved.
Located under the Granville Street Bridge, literally, this small area is really a peninsula not an island, but it feels like one. It features a marina and dozens of shops of all different types, mostly featuring handmade or imported items.
Granville is also home to a wide range of artists and craft studios and educational facilities including a glass blowing, printmaking, woodworking, broom making, and boat building studios and workshops.
One of my favorites is the farmers market. I’m a huge fan of markets and love exploring them visually as well as filling up my shopping bags with tasteful vegetable and fruit treasures.
Entertainers, called “buskers,” entertain the thousands who visit on weekends and holidays, juggling, singing, playing musical instruments, acting, and delighting children and everyone with magic and performance.
Along the north side of the island not far from the market areas is a traditional Salish Housepost, an open air roofed building traditional to the Coastal Salish Native Indians of Canada. In one we found they carving totem poles, one of the few places in the Pacific Northwest where the tradition continues thanks to generous donations and support from the Emily Carr Institute and others.
Exploring Granville Island is best done thoroughly away from the busiest times of the week such as weekends and holidays. The market is alive with the activity of the farmers and shopkeepers early in the morning, though most of the rest of the shops don’t open until later in the morning. If you thrive on crowd energy, the weekends during the warmer months find the area packed.
Parking can be a challenge. There is parking on the island with permits and for short term parking. It’s a short walk from the neighborhood on the south side of Granville Island Bridge and parking can be found there in paid parking lots and metered spots, though the meters max out at about 2 hours. If you get there early enough, there are a few parking spots that have no meter nor limits on Sunday.
Come ready for any type of weather no matter the season and bring your shopping bags and good walking shoes. Be ready to eat some fabulous food from the fine restaurants, market food stalls, and local pubs throughout the market area of the island.