VANCOUVER, B.C. From natural beauty to urban chic, Vancouverites
like to boast that their city has it all even though it’s seldom in
one place. But tucked under a bridge leading to Vancouver’s
downtown core is one exception to the rule.
Granville Island is a near-perfect microcosm of the city’s chief
attributes. On one 37-acre site, you can take a kayaking lesson or
charter a yacht, tour art galleries, dine on the waterfront, see a
play and turn in for the night at a boutique hotel.
Because of its proximity to barge traffic along an inlet leading
to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean, the island once was an
industrial hub. The Canadian government transformed it in the 1970s
as a draw for both residents and tourists. Many of its buildings
are made from corrugated tin as a nod to the island’s hardworking
roots, giving the area a playful architectural unity that’s lacking
in many other parts of the city.
Granville Island’s focal point and the main attraction for
locals is its public market, one of the best places in the city to
shop for fresh produce and seafood, but the island derives its real
character from a resident community of artisans.
In dozens of small studios, you can watch a glassblower coax a
molten blob into a jewel-colored vase or see how a shoemaker shapes
strips of leather into handmade footwear.
For nightlife, Granville Island has three theaters and a
year-round schedule of special events, ranging from outdoor jazz
concerts to an annual writers festival.
Restaurants tend to be casual rather than upscale, with an
emphasis on seafood. The island’s largest, Bridges, is arguably the
best, but don’t even think about sitting inside wait for one of the
halcyon sunny days that Vancouverites love and park yourself on the
restaurant’s huge waterfront deck to watch sailboats pull into
their slips and seagulls dive for their dinner.
Getting there: All major U.S. airlines fly into Vancouver
International Airport, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from
Accommodation: The three-and-a-half-star Granville Island Hotel
(800-663-1840 or www.granvilleislandhotel.com) is the only place to
stay right on the island. However, passenger ferries that run every
few minutes make dozens of hotels in the downtown core easily
accessible, including the four-and-a-half-star Coast Plaza Hotel
and Suites (800-663-1144 or www.coasthotels.com). Restaurants:
Bridges Restaurant (604-687-4400) and the more casual Dockside
Brewing Company (604-685-7070) are two of the best choices for
dining on the island.
Web sites: To find out more about Granville Island, check out
www.granvilleisland.com. For information on Vancouver, see