I love the story of Granville Island. It's a story of a city turning around an area and making it vibrant, fun, and full of life. The island isn't really an island, it's a peninsula connected to the land on the opposite side of the city.
The peninusla was an industrial complex for years and years. It was loaded with factories, cranes, and a place you stay clear of. During the Second World War, the peninsula became the hub of Candian ship-building activity. Then when the war stopped, the little peninusla feel into disrepair. It was urban blight at it's best.
A few insightful city planners wanted to turn this area into the city's premier entertainment, art, and cultural center. It was an uphill battle. Who would pay for it? Who would clean it up? If you built it, would people really come? But they fought for their dream and the island was tranformed. Today it is one the best sucess stories for urban renewal in the world.
The best way to get to Granville island is to take the Aqua Bus.
The ferry to the island departs at the foot of Hornby Street in Vancouver. The cost is only C$2. Aqua buses are small ferries that run every 5 minutes. When I was here, there were three ferries working the route. The ferries carry passengers, dogs, and bikes. The captains are young guys and very friendly and chatty. Part of the fun of Granville Island is getting there!
The island is a mix of theaters, galleries, yacht brokers, a first-class hotel, and the famous Granville Island Brewery. The Brewery does tours and I urge you, before you leave Vancouver, to try their honey beer. It's served all over the city.
There are two famous markets on the island. One is the farmers market, that is full of fresh produce and foods (see the seperate journal entry) and the Kids Only Market. The Kid's Only Market is full of fun things for kids. You can find books, games, toys, dolls, and unique kid's clothing. If you have kids, this a must-visit.
Spend time walking the island. There are tiny little alleys and side streets that hold wonderful surprises everywhere - little galleries, quaint shops, or even a train museum. Granville Island is a place for your senses. I was sitting near the water when I realized I was smelling some exotic Indian food from the food stall behind me, listening to a street performer singing a French folk song, tasting the fresh blueberry muffin in my mouth, feeling the warm Canadian sun on my back, and looking across the water and seeing the blue sky and the Vancouver skyline. This was truely sensory overload!
Granville Island is not to be missed. I can easily spend a full day here. The locals have embraced it, and tourists fall in love with it. Thank goodness for city planners with a vision!