Granville Island: A First Look


altPeople who live in Vancouver can all agree that some of the best food in town can be found in the Granville Island Public Market. Of course, where there is good food, there is also great coffee. In fact, in November 2004, Project for Public Spaces awarded Granville Island the top spot in the rankings for the 20 best North American Districts, Downtown's, and Neighborhoods.

This little corner of the city, nestled directly below the main bridge into the city is a favorite spot for locals and visitors to the city.

Before I dive into the great locations around the island, a bit of a background is needed. In 1979, Ottawa invested $25 million for the development of the Island. What was previously nothing more than a sandbar and a collection of heavy industry operations, the adjacent False Creek was dredged, with the fill creating the island itself. The island opened in 1979, with the market being the main attraction. It has been a Vancouver landmark ever since. An interesting point to keep in mind however - since the island was created with federal money, the island is considered to be federal land, not provincial. There is a reminder of this every time you drive onto the island, with the prominent federal Canadian Government symbol displayed above the roadway. Just think - there is some federal office in Ottawa running this place!

Now, what does the island have to offer? As I have said, the marketplace is the main attraction, but there is so much else to see and do. In this first of two parts, I will focus on the island outside of the marketplace.

One of my favorite spots outside of the market is the Granville Island Brewery, where I will go enjoy a fresh beer in the taproom. As well, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, including The Keg, Bridges, and if you like seafood - The Sandbar.

As for shopping on the island, there is plenty as well. Clothing boutiques, hand-made furniture stores, pottery shops, art galleries....the list goes on and on.

The island is also home to a hotel, a few house-boat residences, the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, a live theatre, a piano lounge, a boat launch and yacht repair facility, as well as a community center. However, once you get closer to the marketplace, the shops get more interesting. A favorite of mine is the french bakery, where, as you can imagine, everything is delicious - but the good old standard is a fresh baguette.

As you walk around the island, there is constant hustle and bustle, which all adds to the experience, except for parking - do not attempt this.

There are much more fun ways to getting onto the island, such as the various little puddle hopper ferries that go back and forth across False Creek to the downtown island and across English Bay. There are still some signs around the island of it's history, such as the cobblestone streets, the trolley car rails still embedded in the roadway, and the remaining cement factory - the one throwback to what sustained the island for years.

In my next look at the island, the focus will be on the public marketplace, where the real action is!

Dave Reimer lives, works and studies in Vancouver, British Columbia. Arguably the finest place to live on the planet, Vancouver hosted Expo 86 and will soon host the Olympics.


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