Refreshingly different from the slick cityscape across the creek, Granville Island is Vancouver's bohemian, arty enclave where galleries rub shoulders with theatres, little independent shops, waterfront restaurants and a fresh produce market to create a vibrant community radiating bonhomie.
The peninsula was created in 1915 as a 35-acre industrial reclamation site in False Creek to accommodate businesses in the forest, mining, construction and shipping sectors. Industry thrived on Granville Island until the Great Depression in the 1930s, reviving once more with the onset of the First World War, only to decline again in the post-war period. In the late 1970s and early 1980s ownership was transferred to the Government and redevelopment started, retaining some of the former buildings.
Today there are a few surviving industrial companies, such as Ocean Construction, a concrete company which arrived on Granville Island more than a century ago. Its silos and mixing lorries have been artfully decorated to reflect the Island's latest reincarnation.
The painted silos of the Ocean Construction concrete factory on Granville Island, Vancouver
Walking around Granville Island is the best way to see its 300 or so shops, studios, theatres and eateries as it is relatively small and very popular among locals and visitors. At the heart of the Island is the covered Public Market selling fresh produce such as Okanagan cherries, Pacific salmon, baked goods and gourmet foods as well as handmade crafts including jewellery, bath products and fine art.
There is also a Kids' Market, housed in a former paint factory, where there are play areas and shops selling all manner of goods appealing to children.
The Island is teeming with shops and booths selling arts and crafts selling everything from glasswork and photography to woven hats and pottery. If you enjoy browsing you'll love it here. It's also a great place to pick up gifts for friends and family or treat yourself to something special as a souvenir of your visit.
You can grab a bite to eat from one of the food stalls in the market or choose from a number of excellent waterside cafes and restaurants looking out over the marina. We enjoyed a delicious meal of fish and chips at Bridges Restaurant on the northwest tip of the Island when we visited. There are also a couple of breweries on the Island where you can try the local lagers and beers.
Granville Island is the centre of Vancouver's lively performing arts scene and is home to a handful of theatre companies including Arts Club Theatre Company, reputedly western Canada's largest theatre company. There are professional and amateur shows almost every night in one of the Island's theatres, including contemporary comedy and musicals among other genres. If you can't make it to a performance, there are plenty of street musicians to entertain you as you explore the Island.
We cycled on to Granville Island and you can also access it by car, but the easiest way on to the Island from downtown Vancouver is by Aquabus ferry from Hornby Street or the Aquatic Centre on the other side of False Creek. These dinky little rainbow coloured boats can be seen crossing the Creek all day, ferrying passengers around Vancouver's main tourist attractions.