Granville Island, minutes from downtown Vancouver, is an urban oasis brimming with Canadian delights. With artisans, festivals, galleries and an abundance of scrumptious produce, Granville Island Market is a must for your Vancouver itinerary.
From two sand bars, used for fishing by First Nations People, Granville Island (formerly Industrial Island) emerged via the dredging of False Creek and became Vancouver’s industrial hub.
Quickly, the island filled with corrugated tin factories producing nails, paint, saws, cement and chain. The Great Depression nipped production in the bud transforming the island from boomtown to shantytown. WWII reversed the downturn only to have it slump again in 1945 after the war.
The local government recognised the damage industry had thrust on the surrounding environment and changed tack. Emily Carr University of Art & Design, Parklands, Exhibition Spaces and the Public Market are the new faces of Granville Island.
Ocean’s Construction Limited, a concrete company, is all that’s left of the original island’s industry and they’re trying their best to blend in. The rest of the corrugated tin factories now house artisans, designers, markets, restaurants, and bars so let’s check them out.
Granville Island Public Market.
Here’s where fresh produce, ready-made meals and snacks can be found. Once you’ve sampled The Nut Merchant‘s maple, sriracha pecans there’s no turning back.
Munch on sweet, local berries from Sunlight Farms as you decide on which gourmet honey to take home from Chilliwack River Valley Natural Honey. Their hand packaged 100% natural, unpasteurised honey has distinct wild flower flavours.
Pies from A La Mode, healthy options at Fraser Valley Juice & Salad Bar, fish & chips, pulled Venison sandwiches, cheese, cured meats, olives, sausages and rotisserie meats; the deliciousness is endless, but try not to overindulge, there’s plenty waiting outside.
On Johnston Street, Edible Canada is both bistro and retail store. Think local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients from many Canadian cultures.
Sea Cider’s Rum Runner is rum barrel aged apple cider. With an alcohol volume of 12% and the hint of rum making this cider incredibly moreish, you could be in for a big day.
To soak up the cider, pig ears and chick peas fried to crispiness work a treat, or for something more substantial, hook into the West Coast Seafood Pan; mussels, clams, smoked sturgeon, chorizo & chimichurri aioli over fried bread.
Take your receipt to Edible Canada’s Retail store for 10% off many of the condiments used on the bistro menu. Amola Salts, Lavender, Chai and Lemon Simple Syrups, Okanagan Vinegar Brewery’s vinegars and olive oils. There’s a treasure trove of local goodies.
In Railspur Alley, Masa Shiroki produces Canada’s first hand-crafted sake on the premises. Initially using Japanese sake-grade rice and Canadian water, he, along with his wife, Yukiko, now till the world’s most northern rice farms. In 2013, they bottled their first 100% Fraser Valley Junmai Sake garnering awards and attracting the attention of food, wine, and travel media.
Another first is their sparkling sake made in traditional Méthode Champanoise style. Presenting a nose of tropical fruit, a soft mousse mouthfeel and a crisp dry finish, Mirai Sparkling Sake is delightful.
Flights of Artisan Sake Maker’s 4 Sakes can be sipped alongside nibbles of delicate fish balls and other Japanese snacks while the on-premises production is explained.
Another onsite booze producer, The Liberty Distillery is a larger affair. Tours are only on weekends, but glass between front of house and distillery hides little if weekdays are your only option. Friendly staff are happy to chat through the distilling process and expand on the tasting notes revealing their obvious experience.
The Liberty Flight is an introduction to their white spirit categories; Truth Vodka, Railspur No. 1 White Whiskey & Endeavour Gin.
There’s a Gin Flight, again with the 10 botanical Endeavour, onto the 25 botanicals Endeavour Origins to then pick up the pace with a Navy Strength Rose Gin (Endeavour Pink Gin) at 47% Alc/ Vol. The flight is completed by their Barrel aged Old Tom; oak, spicy fruit cake, a Whiskey lovers gin.
There’s a specific Whiskey lover’s flight that includes Railspur No. 1 White and continues with Railspur No. 2 Wildflower Honey. A rich finish and hint of clover through the infusion of Chilliwack Natural Honey’s wildflower honey.
Lastly, Railspur No. 3 Spike! Full bodied and rich with barley, wood and spice, this one is triple distilled and barrel-aged. Flavours of vanilla and dried fruits make this easy to drink, moreish and dangerous.
Established in 1984, Granville Island Brewing (GIB) now belongs to its 3rd owner. Bulk production comes from Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley, however, small batch brewing is still taking place in GIB’s original location right under the Granville Island Bridge.
8 small batch brews are on offer and self-selected flights of 4 are a great way to try them. Brewery tours can be arranged and GIB’s “fresh from Granville Island Public Market” charcuterie platters are well worth ripping into.
Hammered and Pickled.
Named for the silversmith’s hammer and pickling process, Mishi Perugini’s store on Old Bridge Street is the place to watch the process first hand as she creates her beautiful silver rings, neck pieces, and ear rings enhanced by amber, onyx, and turquoise.
David New-Small And Nora Sterling opened their glass studio in 1984. You can still observe David working in the “hot shop” producing beautiful pieces from molten sand. David mentors young glass artists encouraging them to exhibit in the studio or to spread their wings and open their own galleries. You too can join a workshop and take home your own beautiful glass creation.
Bob Kingsmill’s raku-fired masks and wall murals may not be for everyone, but there’s no denying their charm. Textures and colours created by the raku glaze’s unpredictability make the work all the more interesting. At his Granville Market studio, observe the process and check out his gallery of finished pieces.
Bus #50 from downtown.
Taxis from anywhere in Vancouver, they know where to go.
The Hop On – Hop off bus’s red line stops at Granville Island.
A free ferry ticket is included on the Hop On – Hop Off Bus’s green line from stop 14.
False Creek Ferries stop in front of the Public Market, as do the colourful Aquabuses.
There’s always a bicycle or your feet to take you there. It’s so close to downtown and it’ll help with the excess baggage you’re likely to carry after a day grazing the market.
Granville Island, Vancouver, it’s a place we love….