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Granville Island is a vibrant little market neighborhood located in the heart of Vancouver, British Colombia. It’s right across from downtown and this peninsula (it’s not really an island!) is its own little world full of fantastic food, shopping, and some of the best activities in BC.
We’ve previously lived in Vancouver (we still consider ourselves locals) and we can testify this is an absolute must-visit for anyone’s Vancouver itinerary, so much so we used to visit several times a month!
While you could definitely visit the island on your own by driving yourself or hopping on the Aquabus, if you are short on time or prefer to explore the city without having to plan your own agenda, you can easily book a tour!
After living in the city, we’ve compiled a list of all the best Granville Island tours in Vancouver that we believe have the best routes, activities, and value for money.
This means you can see and fall in love with this part of the city, just like we have!
Our TOP Granville Island Tour
Sometimes we don’t have that much time to explore a new area – and that’s ok! This half-day Vancouver sightseeing tour is our top pick of the bunch, hitting all of the most popular areas in the city within just 3 and a half hours. The tour is paced perfectly, so you never feel like you’re being rushed.
Tickets for this tour cost $80 CAD per person, and it can book out quickly, so make sure to grab your tickets in advance online here!
Best Tours of and from Granville Island
1. VIP access Granville Island market tour
Undoubtedly, one of the main draws for visiting Granville Island is to experience its incredible Public Market! This market is so famous it’s actually the second most-visited Canadian attraction … with only the famous Niagra Falls beating it. That should tell you just how amazing this place is!
Basically, it’s a huge indoor market, full to the brim with food stalls, handmade gifts, jewelry, fresh seafood, and much more. You could literally spend hours here browsing!
While you can explore by yourself, there’s something great about taking this VIP market tour – especially if it’s your first time here. You’ll be shown around the market in a small group and get to taste some of the delights from the market’s best spots!
With so many vendors, it can be hard to choose what to try first. We’ve visited Granville Island Market countless times and have still not managed to try everything!
This tour starts at 10:30 am and lasts for two hours, so it basically is like brunch and lunch combined! You’ll have an expert local guide along to tour you around the market as you sample at least 20 of the best culinary delights on offer. Think fluffy doughnuts, truffle salami, fine cheeses, chocolate, and even Thai food. My mouth is watering already!
Along the way you get to chat with the local vendors and honestly, we felt like we joined this “vendor family” that the market has. Plus, once your tour is done you’ll have as much free time as you want to return to the stalls that caught your eye since you’ll know your way around.
This tour costs $130 CAD including all of the food you’ll sample. It has rave reviews and is thought to be one of the best culinary experiences on Granville Island! In fact, it’s even received the designation as a Canadian Signature Experiences tour which basically means it has the tourism stamp of approval as an authentic Canadian travel experience.
Don’t miss out on one of the best attractions in the entire country and book your VIP market tour online here!
2. Food walking tour of Granville Island Public Market
Okay, so you’ve heard me raving about the food at this market and it seriously doesn’t disappoint. But don’t take my word for it – take the word of a professional chef! This food walking tour pairs you up with an off-duty chef to eat your way through the best food here.
The tour starts at 4 pm, so unlike the previous tour that’s more of a lunch option, this one is perfect for supper plans. I definitely recommend coming hungry! You’ll have two hours with your guide, Chef Bob, and a small group (maximum 10 people) to explore.
Some of the food on offer includes maple-cured salmon, artisanal chocolates, charcuterie meats, fresh doughnuts (the best in Vancouver if you ask me!), and amazing chai tea lattes. Whether you’re a foodie or just looking for a fun night out in Vancouver, this tour delivers.
Bob is also really knowledgeable about the area and the history of the market and his passion for food really comes through. You’ll find yourself inspired to get cooking yourself … or at least try even more of the local food! He also tailors the tour to what you’re interested in so you can stick to the food or get some time to wander around other areas of the market to check out artwork or handmade items from other vendors.
3. Vancouver city sightseeing tour with Granville Island
Pair a visit to Granville Island with some of the city’s other top spots on this Vancouver sightseeing tour. If you don’t have long to spend in Vancouver, we like that this tour hits some of the top places in just a few hours.
The tour starts from the Georgian Court Hotel or you can arrange for pick up from other hotels or cruise ship terminals. Your first stop is cruising through the cobbled streets of Gastown and Chinatown, all while listening to some fascinating history of the area.
Then you get to have an hour to explore the Granville Island Public Market. This is a really nice stop to have near the halfway mark of the tour as I was getting a bit hungry by this point! You can create your own little sampling tour as you wander around and see what catches your eye.
Then you also get the benefit of a Stanley Park tour as that’s your next destination! There are endless things to do in Stanley Park, so we recommend heading back here after the tour when you have more time to explore! This tour takes you to the nine totem poles at Brockton Point which is one of the most famous places to visit in BC. You’ll hear some of the history of the totem poles, the First Nations people, and the park itself.
Finally, you’ll finish the day at Prospect Point Lookout. This viewpoint is the highest in all of Stanley Park so the views are incredible. There’s some interesting history to this spot that your guide will fill you in on as you grab an ice cream and watch the ships pass under the Lions Gate Bridge.
The tour costs $72 CAD per person and runs for around 3.5 hours making it a perfect introduction to the city.
Related Read: If you’re up for some exercise, you can get some incredible views while tackling one of the best hikes in Vancouver!
4. Vancouver city half-day tour
If you are only in Vancouver for a short amount of time then taking this half-day tour of Vancouver is a great introduction to the city! It allows you to see all the city’s highlights and decide what places you want to explore during the rest of your trip, or when you next visit.
You’ll be picked up from your hotel and get to drive by a few famous spots like Canada Place, Robson Street, Stanley Park, and cross over Lions Gate Bridge, all while listening to commentary from your expert local guide.
There are a few city tours in Vancouver but we really liked this one as it has great stop-offs, including over an hour at Granville Island and Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, which a lot of other tours do not. As much as places like Chinatown and Stanley Park are incredible, you can easily venture to and spend time at these places without a guide!
Prices for this tour start at $144 CAD per person which includes hotel pick-up, your five to six-hour bus tour, and your admission ticket for the suspension bridge (which is a $70 CAD value!). The Capilano Suspension Bridge is a stunning walkway suspended 230 feet (70 meters) above the Capilano River. If you’re feeling brave, you can also try out the Cliffwalk that is on a cliffside, and did I mention there’s a glass floor?! Definitely not for those scared of heights!
The grand finale of the tour ends with free time to explore Granville Island. I really like that this tour is a nice mix of guided experiences and free time. It lets you learn some of the history of Vancouver while still making your own memories along the way.
This tour is FULL of 5-star reviews and is available from April until October, so make sure if you’re visiting Vancouver during that time you book online with Viator here.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
Check out the Viator website here!
5. Vancouver city hop-on hop-off tour
If you are only spending a day in a new city, a hop-on hop-off bus tour can be a great way to see some of the main highlights for a lower cost than booking a group tour. It gives you the freedom to plan your own itinerary and see the city at a pace you enjoy.
This Vancouver hop-on hop-off tour has 16 stops around the city including Canada Place, Stanley Park, Granville Island, Chinatown, and Gastown. You are free to start, finish and get off and explore wherever you please, or just stay on for the full 90 minutes!
You won’t get a full commentary of the area like you would experience from a lot of the other tours in Vancouver but if you use it as a transport method to get around the city, it is a great way to see the city.
Prices start at $65 CAD for a full-day ticket. If you’re visiting Vancouver in the summer (May-September), the first bus leaves Canada Place at 8:45 am and the last pick-up of the day is at 5 pm. Buses run every 20 minutes and you can expect the bus to stop for you to “hop-off” every 20-30 minutes.
For winter vacations in Vancouver, the first tour leaves Canada Place at 9:45 am, running every 60 minutes, with the last pick-up route starting at 3:15 pm. You won’t stop as frequently to hop-off, only every 60-70 minutes, so prepare for that.
While it’s not necessarily our favorite way to see Vancouver, if you are looking for a more budget-friendly option for touring the city, and are short on time, it might be the tour for you!
6. Independent bike and e-bike tour of Vancouver
Vancouver is one of those cities that is ideal for cyclists, with dedicated cycle paths all across the city, it’s actually one of the best ways to get around Vancouver and you will see tons of locals doing it!
For this reason, bike tours are really popular in Vancouver and we highly recommend taking this one! Not only is it a fun way to get outdoors and do some exercise while seeing the city, but it is a lot quicker than walking around so you can see a lot more in less time, win-win!
This bike tour of Vancouver is completely independent so you can pick your stops and take as long as you wish in each place! There’s nothing worse than desperately pedaling to keep up with the group or having to keep slowing down for stragglers, but with this tour, you get your map, gear and away you go!
The guides will be able to help you out with route planning before you leave but since we consider ourselves locals, we can personally recommend exploring Stanley Park, Olympic Village, English Bay, Kitsilano and of course getting the Aquabus ferry over to Granville Island (you can bring your bike on the Aquabus!).
Prices start at $53 CAD for a standard city cruiser bike or $100 CAD for an e-bike. You’ll also get a helmet, lock, and handlebar bag.
If exploring Granville Island by bike sounds like the tour for you, reserve your bike online now!
7. Vancouver whale watching safari
This body of water is home to a variety of species including orcas, humpback, and gray whales as well as dolphins, otters, sea lions, eagles, and more! All of which you can see from the comfort of a covered boat on this whale watching tour.
While they can’t guarantee you will see whales every time (as they are wild animals) they do say that 85% of trips spot some! The expert naturalists will teach you everything you have ever wanted to know about the whale’s lives, behaviors, and migration patterns and make it their priority to help you see some during your trip.
On our tour, we managed to see lots of whales including orcas, which are my favorite! What’s also great is the crew on board take photos for you to send after your trip. This way you can enjoy the experience of seeing whales without worrying about missing out while trying to find your camera.
The tour departs daily from Granville Island, but they do offer free roundtrip transportation from any hotel in Vancouver. Prices start at $329 CAD per person and the whole tour lasts for approximately five hours. They offer complimentary hot drinks on board, which is ideal when the weather isn’t the warmest!
If you haven’t seen whales in the wild before, this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience you’ll want to book now for your trip!
8. Best of Vancouver private tour
There’s nothing quite like the luxury of taking a private tour around a new location! No waiting around for other people or sitting on a cramped bus and you also have the freedom to stay as little or as long as you like at each stop.
On this Vancouver private city tour you can arrange for either a 9 am or 2 pm pick-up from the city center. You’ll be taken all around Vancouver’s top sights in a swanky touring limo with a knowledgeable local guide.
You can expect to go around all of the iconic spots like Gastown, Stanley Park, Lions Gate Bridge, Chinatown, and Queen Elizabeth Park but one of the main perks of taking a private tour is that you can request any spots you like!
The guides will be more than happy to take you over to the amazing Granville Island where you can pick up some souvenirs and try some street food from the famous Granville Island Public Market.
The tour price varies depending on how many people you’re booking for. So it’s $325 CAD per person for two people but drops to $239 CAD per person for four people, so if you’re visiting with friends or family and can split the cost, this is a good option.
Customize your own tour of Vancouver by booking this private tour here – you’ll want to book ASAP as dates can sell out for this one.
9. Seadoo (jet ski) tour
While living in Vancouver, we really got into jet skiing! It is such a fun activity in the city that allows you to get out onto the water and see the city from a whole new perspective.
You could easily rent your own jet skis and set off on your own, but if you are a first-timer or just want to experience a tour of the English Bay via jet ski, booking a tour is the best option.
This jet ski tour departs from Granville Island at 8 am, so you can take to the water before the rest of the city does. We always found that from about 10 am on, a lot more boats and tours are around which can make it seem a little overcrowded.
If you are new to jet skiing then don’t worry, your guide gives you a full safety briefing before you get going and will always be nearby once you are out and about.
The guide takes you through English Bay, stopping at the adorable seal colony, Bowen Island, and Anvil Island. You also get to experience beautiful 360-degree views over Howe Sound, the bays, coves, and surrounding beaches. The guides always point out areas where you can get out and swim too, and don’t forget to keep your eye out for dolphins!
You can choose from a single-rider jet ski for $329 CAD per person or a double-rider for $210 CAD per person when you book online here. While it can seem a bit pricey, this cost actually includes a ton of stuff. You’ll get a wetsuit, life jacket, fuel, a one-day boater’s license, a guide, and 2.5 hours on the water.
What’s great is that you arrive back at Granville Island just in time to dry off and go grab some lunch at one of the market vendors!
10. Fishing charter
With its location right on the water, it’s no surprise Granville Island is a great place to hop aboard a fishing boat! Bon Chovy Fishing Charters is located on the island and offers 5, 8, or 10-hour tours to get you out on the water and catching some fish.
You’re paired up with an expert guide who will help you reel in a great catch. What’s awesome is that no matter when you’re visiting Vancouver, you can join one of these tours. Yup, that’s right, they operate 365 days a year! Some of the best fishing is from November to March when you’re most likely to catch chinook salmon weighing between 5-20 lb (5-9 kg).
If you’re a seafood lover, the guides make sure whatever you catch is ready to eat. The fish you catch will be cleaned and bagged so you can easily take them with you to prepare a tasty supper. Or they can help you purchase airplane-approved coolers if you want to fly home with your catch.
The charters range from the shortest 5-hour tour where the boats generally stay within 20 minutes of Granville Island to the 10-hour tours where you will head out towards the Gulf Islands. Tours start at $850 CAD for 2 people, but are more economical if you book for a larger group – so grab some friends and go fishing for the day!
Other Fantastic Tours in Vancouver
While the above are the best tours that take you on and around Granville Island that we’ve experienced, there are many more fantastic tours in and around the Vancouver area. Here are some of our personal favorites:
- Seaplane flight – Nothing beats soaring over Vancouver on this scenic seaplane flight tour, and honestly, this is our favorite thing that we ever did in the city! For $160 CAD, you’ll see all the top sights we mentioned but from a birds-eye view. These flights run year-round but are always ideal on a sunny day. To learn more, read our tips on booking a Vancouver seaplane flight.
- Lynn Canyon – If you’re on a budget, you can explore the beautiful Lynn Canyon as one of the top free activities in Vancouver. However, we joined this photography tour and loved every moment! You’ll cross the epic suspension bridge and hike along a trail with waterfalls, forests, and natural pools. Along the way you’ll pick up awesome photography tips you can use on your travels around Vancouver.
- Victoria and the Butchart Gardens – On this full-day tour, you’ll hit up the top sights in Victoria as well as explore the Butchart Gardens. These gardens were voted some of the best in the world, and they have over 900 plant varieties, five different garden styles, and 26 greenhouses. Plus, you’ll get to take a cruise on the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island, which is an experience in itself!
- Sunset dinner cruise – Dinner, drinks, and a sunset cruise on the harbor … it doesn’t get much better than this! We’ve done this sunset dinner cruise tour twice, and truthfully, we’d do it again! While the sun sets over the horizon, you’ll enjoy an expansive dinner buffet along with live music for $209 CAD per adult. It’s our top cruise in Vancouver and perfect for groups of friends, families, or for a romantic evening (especially if you’re planning a honeymoon in Vancouver!).
Where to Stay in Vancouver
Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. The fact is that in the summer and winter, the city books up very fast. Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!
For in-depth info on the best areas and hotels, check out my complete guide on where to stay in Vancouver. It breaks down everything you need to know before choosing the right hotel!
Some of my top recommendations for great hotels and hostels in Vancouver are:
The Cambie Hostel Gastown – $
The Cambie Hostel Gastown is an overall good budget choice. The location is in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants. Attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. The rooms are clean, but we felt the bathrooms were a little cramped.
It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is relatively cheap for being so central. Yet, it still offers quality accommodations. To snag this deal, you’ll want to reserve a room on Hostelworld.com or Booking.com!
Times Square Suites – $$
For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park, you should opt for the Times Square Suites. It’s very hard to fault this hotel, and we think the location is amazing. Plus, the suites are spacious yet have a cozy feel with kitchenettes and gas fireplaces. This hotel feels luxurious yet still affordable, with prices starting at $196 CAD when you book ahead online.
Hyatt Regency Vancouver – $$$
The Hyatt Regency Vancouver has the perfect location halfway between Stanley Park and Gastown. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is very highly reviewed! It has an outdoor hot tub, a gym, a Starbucks on-site, and is within walking distance to top sights.
Rooms start at $233 CAD and are clean, spacious, and very well-kept. So if you can afford to spend a little more, we recommend treating yourself to this hotel! You can check availability, prices, and book your stay here.
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
Granville Island is one of those places you don’t want to miss exploring while you’re in Vancouver! From the fantastic public market to its ideal location to get out on the water, the tours we’ve talked about will give you some incredible experiences for your vacation.
If you need any help planning your trip to the West Coast, check out our other blogs about the Vancouver area here. From restaurant recommendations to hidden gems, we want to help you explore some of the best places in BC!