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Vancouver, British Columbia, is pretty well-known as outdoor-activity heaven, and with the ocean, mountains, and forests all around, it’s easy to know why! It’s also a world-class city with great food, shopping, and entertainment.
But of all the top things to do in Vancouver, spending a day at Granville Island is an absolute must. This not-quite-an-island island is a little getaway in the middle of the city. Granville Island is a shopping and dining peninsula located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver.
There is so much to see and do on Granville Island! Definitely more than originally meets the eye, so be sure to allow some time in your Vancouver itinerary to explore this awesome place.
So if you’re ready to visit Granville Island, then this blog is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s a complete guide to visiting Granville Island, Vancouver, including how to get there, where to stay, and of course, the best things to do on Granville Island.
After reading this blog, you’ll be ready to explore one of Vancouver’s best free attractions!
- About Granville Island, Vancouver
- 17 Things to do on Granville Island, Vancouver
- 1. Visit the Granville Island Public Market
- 2. Join a brewery tour at Granville Island Brewing
- 3. Enjoy waterfront drinks
- 4. Watch the street performers
- 5. Ride the Aquabus
- 6. Visit the Kids Market
- 7. Go shopping!
- 8. Check out the Art Galleries
- 9. Eat lots of seafood
- 10. Go to the waterpark
- 11. Go on a fishing charter
- 12. Attend an event or festival
- 13. Rent a boat and get out on the water
- 14. Walk the Seawall
- 15. Laugh out loud at Vancouver Theatre Sports Improv
- 16. Watch a play
- 17. Get the best donuts in the city
- Getting to Granville Island
- Where to Stay on Granville Island, Vancouver
- Before you go…
About Granville Island, Vancouver
Granville Island is a small peninsula and suburb located in downtown Vancouver. The suburb of Granville Island covers more ground than just the peninsula itself. However, the best attractions are on the peninsula in whats known as the downtown shopping district. Here is where you’ll find all the attractions below, as well as lots more!
Getting to Granville Island from the downtown area is very easy and can be done by driving, walking, biking, and taking the aqua bus – depending on where you’re located. I talk more about this below if you need more info.
In the heart of Granville Island, you’ll find lots of commercial businesses, including markets, restaurants, a brewery, and more. It’s a vibrant place to enjoy a walk, and many Vancouver locals, including myself, shop here. Although a little bit more expensive than other supermarkets, Granville Island is one of the top places to buy local produce in the heart of Vancouver. Oh, and the food is delicious!
The great thing about visiting Granville island is it can be done all year round. During winter in Vancouver, head to the markets and brewery to hide from the cold. In the summertime, explore the outdoor areas and enjoy the beautiful BC sunshine!
Regardless, Granville Island should be at the top of your Vancouver bucket list!
17 Things to do on Granville Island, Vancouver
1. Visit the Granville Island Public Market
The Granville Island Public Market is iconic and absolutely must be your first stop when visiting Granville Island. It is an indoor market with so many different stalls and shops selling seasonal produce, delicious pastries, handcrafted products, fresh seafood, and beautiful gifts. You can honestly explore for hours, checking out all the amazing local products!
The best way to experience the market is to just wander. Get yourself lost, try some free samples, talk to the stall owners, and purchase a few things to eat! It’s also a great place to pick up a souvenir or gift from a local artisan.
If you’d prefer a guide, I love this Granville Island Public Market food tour. The to-hour tour costs only $65 CAD and includes all your tastings and an expert guide. You’ll try all the best products in the market that are famous around Vancouver. If you’re a wine lover, there is also this guided tour that includes wine tasting!
The Granville Island Public Market is open from 9 am to 6 pm every day, including holidays.
Related read: Need more indoor activities? Check out all the best things to do in Vancouver when it rains!
2. Join a brewery tour at Granville Island Brewing
Those who know us know we love craft beer. You’ll often find breweries on our guides to cities, and why not? Craft beer is so delicious!
Granville Island Brewing Co. is one of my favorite breweries in Canada, and you can actually purchase their beer all over the country. However, it never tastes as fresh as it does from the brewery on Granville Island. Their bar and tasting room serve up all their delicious craft brews as well as seasonal beers and new creations.
However, Granville Island Brewing not only serves some of the best craft beers in the region but also offers fun and interesting tours. You can join the daily tours for just $12 CAD to find out all about how the beers are made, the history of the brewery, and what makes them so good!
After your tour, you can hang out in their tasting room and try a flight of beers and pick your favorite. I definitely recommend trying their Northwest Pale Ale of something seasonal like the Peach Sour!
3. Enjoy waterfront drinks
Granville Island is located in a beautiful area of the city and is surrounded on all sides by the Burrard Inlet. There are tons of places to grab a drink with a view of the ocean and city in the background, or of the Granville Island Marina.
Bridges Restaurant and Dockside Restaurant are both popular restaurants that have amazing views from their patios or indoor dining rooms. For something extra special, visit at sunset for an amazing view – perfect for any couples visiting Vancouver on a honeymoon!
4. Watch the street performers
It is very common to see street performers around Granville Island! It is a pedestrian-friendly area, with small outdoor plazas and squares where crowds will often gather to watch.
There are regular performers and buskers who perform in 5 designated busking locations throughout Granville Island. You can actually find them here as well as info on each performer.
You are likely to see a variety of acts, including musicians, magicians, and circus acts like juggling. Most buskers will send around a basket to collect donations after their performance, so if you enjoyed it, you can support their art by providing a small donation.
5. Ride the Aquabus
This item is both fun and practical! The Aquabus is a water taxi service that takes you in between eight different stops along False Creek – an inlet that goes into the center of downtown Vancouver. The Aquabus has a dock at Granville Island, so you can use it to get to and from the area or simply hop on and go for a ride – the views are pretty spectacular!
Some of the other popular destinations on the Aquabus route are The Village (access to Science World) and Plaza of Nations (access to BC Place).
Alternatively, you can also ride with False Creek Ferries to get to Granville Island. Prices are very similar, and both companies visit Granville Island.
The views of Vancouver city are beautiful from the water, and it’s a fun and unique way to explore the city. You can go on a 25-minute guided mini cruise for $20 CAD or purchase roundtrip tickets for anywhere between $6-$14 CAD. Day passes are also available.
6. Visit the Kids Market
If you’re traveling with kids, the Kid’s Market is absolutely worth a stop. It starts with a child-size door to enter through, and then you are in the middle of any kids’ fantasy!
There are over 25 stores and activities for families. There are some of the most unique and creative toy stores in addition to a multi-level play area with an arcade and bumper cars.
While your kids are having fun and exploring, you can relax with a bite to eat or coffee at the café. Many of the shops in the Kid’s Market are by local creators, so it’s a great place to pick up a gift for a baby shower or birthday party! There is even a kids-only salon!
7. Go shopping!
Granville Island is a unique shopping destination because it has so many local, unique, and quirky shops. This isn’t your typical mall shopping experience!
Some of the more interesting shops to check out include Beadworks (more crafting beads than you’ve ever seen in your life!), the Hamuhk Hangout Place (a designated hammock store with options from Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia), or the Granville Island Broom Company (handcrafted brooms of all different designs).
This is just the tip of the iceberg of all the fun and creative shops on Granville Island. There are also many stores that sell Indigenous artwork or products, so you can take home a piece of history and culture. You shouldn’t have any issue picking out a special souvenir to take home from your stay in Vancouver!
8. Check out the Art Galleries
In addition to the quirky and creative shops, there are plenty of art galleries on Granville Island – nearly 30 of them! There are art galleries of all different kinds of mediums, from painting to sculpture to glassblowing.
Granville Island used to be home to the prestigious Emily Carr University of Art + Design, though it has now moved elsewhere in the city. A new non-profit arts education organization has moved into the old Emily Carr building – Art Umbrella – keeping the artistic spirit alive and well in Granville Island!
9. Eat lots of seafood
While not technically an island, Granville Island is still surrounded by water! That means there are so many amazing seafood restaurants serving fresh and local seafood dishes. Some of the top recommendations are The Vancouver Fish Company, Tony’s Fish and Oyster Café, or The Lobster Man.
If you are staying somewhere with a kitchen, you can also pick up fresh fish from the Granville Island Public Market and pick some up to prepare for yourself. If you’re with kids – or just looking for some greasy fast food – there are also plenty of casual fish and chips shops, such as Celine’s Fish & Chips.
10. Go to the waterpark
It can get hot in the summertime in Vancouver, so the Granville Island waterpark is a great place for your family to cool off! Your kids will love running through the different sprays and fountains, splashing around in the water to cool off.
The water park is open during July and August whenever the sun is shining! It is located close to the Kid’s Market and the playground near the entrance of Granville Island. It’s one of the best free activities in Vancouver that kids will love.
11. Go on a fishing charter
You know all that delicious seafood you enjoyed earlier? Yeah, well, that’s all caught right around Granville Island! And, the best part, you can join a charter tour and catch some for yourself! Bon Chovy Fishing Charters offers 5, 8, or 10-hour tours to bring you out to catch some fish.
You will be with an expert guide and teacher who will help you make the perfect catch. Fish are cleaned and bagged at the end of the trip so you can take them home with you to easily prepare a tasty meal. This is also a great opportunity to explore the coast of Vancouver from a boat, and if you go on the 10-hour tour, you will head all the way to the beautiful Gulf Islands.
Prices for these tours start at $600 CAD/person and increase based on the length of time. It is cheaper to go with a group, so grab some friends and make a day of it!
12. Attend an event or festival
Granville Island is a hot spot for fun events and festivals in the city. Because of its artistic environment, it is host to a lot of creative festivals.
Some of the popular festivals held each year in Vancouver – with events in Granville Island – are the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which has free and paid performances by amazing musicians from around the world; the Fringe Festival, which has hundreds of theater and comedy shows; and the Vancouver International Writers Festival, which celebrates authors from around the world.
13. Rent a boat and get out on the water
If you’d rather focus more on the boating and less on the fishing, Granville Island Boat Rentals has a lot of different boats available for rent by the hour. You can choose from super-fast speed boats to engage in some water sports, or choose one that’s better suited for fishing and just cruising around.
Renting a boat and getting out on the water is such a fun way to explore Granville Island, False Creek, or out further along the coast of Vancouver from a new perspective! Pack some sunscreen and a hat and have the best time!
Boat rentals start at $50 CAD/hour and can accommodate up to eight people, depending on the type of boat.
14. Walk the Seawall
Technically this is not an activity in Granville Island, but is a great thing to do while you are in the area! The seawall connects Granville Island with the other side of False Creek, so you can walk around to destinations like Science World and even on towards English Bay Beach. It’s a beautiful area to walk, run, bike, or rollerblade!
To access the seawall, head west from Granville Island and just continue on the path along the waterfront. You can also take the Aquabus over to English Bay Beach and walk along the waterfront over to Stanley Park, which also has a beautiful seawall to walk along. This is one of the best easy hikes in Vancouver that anybody can enjoy.
15. Laugh out loud at Vancouver Theatre Sports Improv
Are you ready to laugh the night away? Vancouver Theatre Sports Improv Comedy in Granville Island has some of the funniest shows in the city. They have been Vancouver’s top improv comedy company since 1980.
Since all their shows are unscripted improv, you won’t ever see the same thing twice. The actors and comedians engage with the audience to come up with ideas for the show. It makes each show totally unique and you’re guaranteed to laugh until your sides hurt!
Tickets are between $15-$25 CAD and you can sit in theatre seats or at a table.
16. Watch a play
The Arts Club on Vancouver Island was founded back in 1958 and has been operating as a Theatre since 1964. They are actually the largest theatre company in Western Canada! The Granville Island location is one of three in the city.
This is a great option for an evening activity with your family or partner, as they put on a wide variety of plays, ranging from classics to new and unique plays you’ve never heard of. They highlight a lot of Canadian talent, both playwrights and actors, so it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local arts scene.
17. Get the best donuts in the city
It might be controversial to label Lee’s Donuts as the best in the city, but the constant line-up out the door has got to say something about them! Lee’s has operated in Granville Island since 1979 and they are oh so good.
The next step here is simple – get yourself to Lee’s and try one for yourself! They’re located in the Public Market; just look for the line of donut-lovers.
Related Read: For foodies, be sure to join a Vancouver food tour – read our review and detailed blog to know what to expect!
Getting to Granville Island
Contrary to the name, Granville Island isn’t an “island” at all and you can actually get there by land. You can drive yourself, although be prepared to pay for parking. Alternatively, you can take the bus or hire an Uber or taxi. False Creek Bus #50 will bring you to Granville Islan from downtown or Gastown.
You can also walk or bike to Granville Island. With a very central location, this is what many people do.
My personal recommendation is to get to Granville Island by boat – it is just more fun! Jump on the Aquabus or False Creek Ferries from various locations around the city that’ll take you straight to Granville Island. These water taxis are not only practical but also a fun and cheap way to get out on the water.
Where to Stay on Granville Island, Vancouver
There are very few hotels located right on Granville Island. The Granville Island Hotel is the perfect luxury hotel on Granville Island. It is close to tons of places to eat and shop. It also has a swimming pool and great views of the surrounding harbor. It is also very budget-friendly at around $200 CAD/night.
If the Granville Island Hotel isn’t what you’re looking for then don’t worry, you don’t have to stay right in Granville Island to enjoy it. Granville Island is so easy to get to that you can easily choose to stay in downtown Vancouver instead and visit Granville Islan from there. Here are some great places to stay in Vancouver:
The Cambie Hostel Gastown – This budget hostel is an overall good budget choice. The location is in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants and attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. Rooms are clean but the bathrooms are a little cramped. It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is considerably cheaper than others offering comparable quality.
Times Square Suites – For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park you can’t go past the Times Square Hotel. It’s very hard to fault this hotel and the location is perfect. It is a good mix between being affordable as well as a very nice hotel.
Hyatt Regency Vancouver – For those wanting the perfect location halfway between Stanley Park and Gastown, the Hyatt Regency is a perfect choice. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is highly reviewed!
Exploring some more? Be sure to make the scenic drive from Vancouver all the way to Whistler. This road is stuning and full of exciting places to stop and check out!
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 is relatively cheap, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Rental Cars.com 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!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already, but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter, crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part, though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment, so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in handy so many times, especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
Granville Island shows up on just about every list of things to do in Vancouver – and for good reason! But here’s the thing: there’s so much more than meets the eye. Granville Island may be a small, easily walkable area, but it packs a real punch in terms of things to do.
From family-friendly activities to fine dining, to excellent shopping, to arts and culture – Granville Island has it all! I hope this list gives you a good idea of what to check out on your next visit to Granville Island and Vancouver.
For more detailed blogs similar to this one, be sure to browse all of my other Vancouver and area blogs. I also have plenty of blogs about Canada and few in particular that you might like: