What it’s like to visit Granville Island, Vancouver
Granville Island sits tucked away under the Highway 99 ramp in Vancouver, luring tourists with the sweet promise of food and shopping like a venus fly trap. The island contains an odd mix of seafood restaurants, industrial art spaces, and a large indoor food market. If you weren’t sure before, the mega neon sign at the entrance announces with no-uncertainty that you are walking into a highly touristed area. Still, It feels bizarre approaching the entrance under massive concrete legs of the overpass above. Everywhere cars idle in long lines, regretting their decision to drive as they dismay at the lack of parking.
Just inside the gates, people gather to watch street performers and pace back and forth from restaurant to restaurant paralyzed with food FOMO.
Notable Spots for eating and Drinking
After spending some time carefully considering the plentiful lunch options, we tried The Sandbar, a large seafood restaurant covering a medley of cuisines. Jeremy has a soft spot for pad thai and was pleasantly surprised that it was the freshest tasting pad thai we have ever had. My drink, the vibrantly yellow and cloyingly sweet banana boat was unique and memorable, but very strong. One is enough for a lifetime.
The lunch rush ambiance of the Sandbar was lively. We sat next to the bar and kitchen and enjoyed watching the bartender make drinks while waiters whizzed in and out of the kitchen with hot food on their arms in their spotless black and white attire. Overall, the Sandbar is a nice spot for a fresh seafood lunch.
Granville Island Brewing
No visit to Granville Island is complete without sampling a flight at Granville Island Brewing. The taproom is a popular place, so expect a bit of a wait. They also don’t serve food, so plan accordingly.
If you’re a fan of specialty cocktails–the kind that take 15 minutes to make and include actual muddling and fancy ingredients like lavender bitters or syrups–you’re in for a treat. The people at Liberty Distillery pride themselves in their vodka, gin, and whiskeys. Step into the high-ceilinged dark wood bar with long communal tables and order up “The Encore”, a bittersweet concoction made of their signature Pink Gin, fresh raspberries, lavender bitters, lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda. Or if you’re a whiskey fan, the “Honey Crushed Lemonade” is a sweet and rich blend of muddled blackberries, honey syrup, fresh squeezed lemonade, and one of their special white whiskeys.
“The Encore” at Liberty Distillery
“The Honey Crushed Lemonade” at Liberty Distillery
Granville Island Food Market
Aside from the bountiful restaurants and bars, Granville Island’s Public Market is a must-visit. When you enter the market hall, the sound of people swarming vendor booths hits you like a wall and echoes all the way to the ceiling. Everywhere, people shuffle along, rubbernecking over vibrant produce they won’t buy, ogling the cases of fresh pasta, hearty wedges of cheeses, and freshly caught seafood sitting on beds of ice. It’s a foodie mecha and photographers paradise.
For an authentic Canadian souvenir, the market is a great place to buy thin boxes of smoked trout or small bottles of maple syrup.
A maple syrup vendor passes out samples.
Getting back home
The prospect of walking all the way back to our hotel in Yaletown was not as appealing after a full day of walking, eating, and drinking. Luckily, we discovered that there was a water taxi that transports people to and from different parts of downtown. We highly recommend this short and inexpensive option for getting to and from Granville Island, as it will undoubtedly be less stressful than trying to find a parking space and less effort than walking. Besides the ease, the experience of gliding across the gentle canal is very soothing and a great end to our exploration Vancouver’s crowded Granville Island.
The view from the water taxi back to Yaletown from Granville Island