Pleasure Island

Arts, crafts, eateries beckon visitors to Granville

By: Joanne Blain

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 Granville Island.

Accommodation: The three-and-a-half-star Granville Island Hotel (800-663-1840 or 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 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 For information on Vancouver, see