Anyone who has visited Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada knows that this waterfront city has an unlimited array of things to see and do. But have you had a chance to discover Granville Island? This unique gem is Vancouver’s answer to art, culture and dining packed into one fabulous location. A cross between Seattle’s Pike Place Market and San Francisco’s Ferry Building, but on a grander scale, I could have stayed all day exploring Granville Island and it’s many shops, dining and entertainment venues.
I knew better than to tackle this former industrial area by myself. The best way to experience Granville Island is to start by taking a tour with a local! I turned to Jenn Potter, a Vancouver resident who works with ToursbyLocals. Jenn met me at Fairmont Hotel Vancouver and chaperoned me through Vancouver’s user-friendly public transportation and onto the cute rainbow-colored Aquabus.
As a Tours by Locals guide Jenn designed and delivered a customized tour for me based on my interests (local food and the art scene) and preferences. Each tour is unique, using creativity and improvisation to personalize the customer experience, while keeping on top of local trends and popular spots. Frankly, I had no idea that Granville Island offered more than food. The Liberty Distillery and Artisan Sake Maker were a surprise to me, as was the Paper-Ya store with its beautiful handmade sheets of paper and the Granville Island Broom Company.
If you follow this blog, you’ll know that we like to eat and drink with gusto. I was not disappointed with the food choices inside and out of the Public Market. Jenn introduced me to the butcher, the baker, and Stuart’s granola maker, as well as the cheese and fishmongers.
Like a blind person on sensory overload, my palette was overwhelmed with tastes of candied salmon, thick, creamy layers of butter, custard, chocolate and coconut blended together in one luscious Nanaimo bar from Laurelle’s fine foods and the sharp flavors of local Okanagan cheeses from Benton Brothers. I was charmed with the flavorful strawberries stacked neatly in pyramid form and the wide array of apple varietals on display from nearby orchards.
Yes, there are plenty of good restaurants scattered about the island, and don’t forget Granville Island Brewing, but the public market offers the freshest of ingredients for a kick ass picnic to eat in Stanley Park or perched along the seawall.
Insider Tip: I’ll bet you didn’t know that the island hosts a wide array of festivals and events. With three theaters, an outdoor amphitheatre and Performance Works space, there’s plenty to keep you entertained, in addition to Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Don’t miss the public art on display at the concrete factory, Ocean Construction Ltd., a Johnston St. fixture for more than 90 years.
For additional insider tips follow Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @Nancydbrown @Granville_Isle and @JenninVan @tours_by_locals.
If You Go:
Thanks to Rocky Mountaineer, Tourism Vancouver, Jenn Potter and Tours by Locals for arranging my Granville Island tour and inviting me to visit Vancouver, British Columbia. Article, video and photos courtesy of Nancy D. Brown.