Granville Island

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Nestled in the centre of Vancouver is a friendly little oasis. Granville Island is laden with restaurants, theatres, galleries, and studios occupied by both artists and craftspeople. It’s the place to go for fresh food, clothes, gifts, crafts, and free street entertainment in a care-free atmosphere, or a drink and a snack in the sun overlooking False Creek.

Shopping aside, the Island is a favourite gathering spot for both locals and visitors. It is busiest on sunny weekends, which are the best time to sample the relaxed atmoshphere, see the artisans at work and catch the street theatre.

Granville Island has plenty for both kids and grown-ups. The Kids Only Market provides plenty of fun, whilst dads can visit the Granville Island Brewing Company and take the tour that ends with a sampling of the brews in their private bar.

Granville Island is a must-see.

Facts and Trivia

Granville Island’s community includes 260 businesses, studios and facilities. It employs 2,300 people.

More than eight million visitors travel from near and far each year to experience Granville Island. Seventy-one percent of the visitors are from outside of British Columbia.

Granville Island is also home for many residents who live in the Sea Village neighborhood. Their floating houses, which sit on the southeast end of Granville Island, have water for a front yard.

Six thousand pounds of salmon are sold in the Granville Island Public Market every week, along with about 600 gallons of soup.

Films that have used Granville Island as a backdrop include: Intersection, Cousins, and of course, The X-Files

Granville Island was named after Lord Granville. It was originally called Industrial Island, but the name never stuck.

The most expensive boat docked on Granville Island is Amnesia, worth $3,000,000.

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History of Granville Island

A century and a half ago, False Creek was a rich tidal basin covering four times the area it does today. The area was richly populated with beaver, muskrat, ducks, trout and sturgeon. The Native fishing village of Snauq (pronounced Sn-owg) fished using traps off the great sand bar now known as Granville Island.

By 1858, European interest turned to this region, and the settlement rush was on. In four decades, huge changes occurred. A land grant to the Canadian Pacific Railway cut the Native village off from the rich stands of timber, and the surrounding area was logged and cleared for settlement. Sawmills sprang up along the Creek to provide construction materials to build Terminal City (as Vancouver was known then.) Now Granville Island was just a shipping obstacle to barges carrying lumber, bricks and lime.

In the late 1880s, local businessmen recognized Granville Island’s value as industrial land, especially because of its proximity to barge traffic. It soon became a clanging, smoking centre of sawmilling, iron work, slaughterhouses and other industrial activity. By the Roaring Twenties, the Island housed some of the city’s largest manufacturing operations. The Second World War fed the frenzy even further. After the Wars, Granville Island now faced some harsh years. A series of fires caused extensive damage to factory buildings, and fresh water grew scarce.

Meanwhile, Vancouver’s economy was evolving, and putting manufacturing plants in the centre of the city no longer made sense. Proximity to highways servicing BC markets was more important than access to the water. Large manufacturers left for the suburbs, and the formerly healthy industrial zone became filthy and deserted.

By the early 1970s, plans to transform Granville Island were underway. The intention was to turn the area from a tired, derelict industrial region into an eclectic people place with a rich mix of theatres, restaurants, shops, educational facilities, studios and office space. The area would retain remnants of its rustic industrial roots, with tin and stucco siding, industrial doorways, cranes and rail tracks. The Public Market was to be the cornerstone and anchor for Granville Island, and the main visitor draw.

Despite the uphill battles faced by Granville Island, the developers and city officials that believed in it created a winning combination that’s now one of Vancouver’s most popular spots, both for locals and tourists.

How To Get To Granville Island

Granville Island is linked to the rest of the city by regular five-minute ferry routes that bring Island visitors from five different Vancouver locations in picturesque mini-ferries. See the free map for routes.

Fully one-quarter of the local residents who visit Granville Island travels by foot, adding to the friendly market atmosphere of the community.

If you arrive by car, park free for three hours daily on the surface or pay $1.50 an hour in any of the parking garages.

Tip: Take the ferry to arrive on foot and not worry about parking.

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