In the Steps of The Bachelorette: A walking tour to Granville Island

As Bachelorette fans know, Vancouver's Granville Island neighborhood is a hub of waterfront shops and restaurants.

As Bachelorette fans know, Vancouver's Granville Island neighborhood is a hub of waterfront shops and restaurants.

Don’t let the name fool you.  Vancouver’s Granville Island isn’t really an island at all.  It’s a downtown peninsula packed with shops, restaurants and markets.  And, though The Bachelorette’s Jillian Harris chose to get there by kayak on last week’s episode, one of the best ways to get to Granville is on foot.

Now, I know walking tours aren’t for everyone.  I can only amble down so many quaint cobblestone streets before I get hungry and start dreaming of lunch.  But Vancouver is different.  Even in the heart of downtown, you can wander past old growth forests and sections of rugged coastline.  Think of it as adventure strolling.

Kitsilano, a leafy residential neighborhood on the city’s west side, makes a nice starting point for a trek to Granville Island.  Besides its privileged location on the Vancouver coast, Kitsilano also enjoys the distinction of being Jason Priestley’s former ‘hood.  I make my way past rows of multi-million dollar oceanfront homes to Kitsilano Beach.

Kits, as it’s known locally, is classic Vancouver.  In the shadow of the downtown skyline, the beach still manages to feel a bit rugged and untamed.  Plus, today it seems like all of Vancouver is here.  On my way down the beach, I pass groups of women in saris, volleyball players speaking Farsi and a Cuban salsa club in the middle of rehearsal.

At the far end of the beach, the sand gives way to grass.  A paved walkway continues along the coast, slicing through some reclaimed industrial land.  Even here things can get a little wild.  A sign notes that coyotes frequent the area.  And, in the top branches of a tree, I spot a pair of bald eagles.  They’ve built a massive nest – at least the size of a truck tire – in the upper branches.  They stare down, looking just as grim and serious in real life as they do on the U.S. presidential seal.

Just minutes from downtown, Vancouver's beaches retain a rugged feel.

Just minutes from downtown, Vancouver's beaches retain a rugged feel.

From here, the trail passes under Vancouver’s Burrard Street bridge and skirts an inlet cluttered with sailboats.  I follow the circling seagulls to Fisherman’s Wharf, where bigger boats unload their haul, the fresh seafood behind Vancouver’s acclaimed sushi scene.  A few enterprising captains even sell fresh tuna, scallops and local spot prawns (the caviar of the shrimp world) right off their ships.

A little shack on the edge of the Fisherman’s Wharf caters to those who’d prefer their fish cooked for them.  Judging from the long lines outside the take-out window – and the crowds jammed into the picnic tables out front – the fish and chips must be something special.  But I resist the temptation and push on to my destination.

When Granville Island finally comes into view, I get mixed signals.  The Island, it turns out, sits directly under one of Vancouver’s busiest bridges.  In any other city, the zone would be a definite no-go.  But in a stroke of planning genius, Vancouver converted what was a rough-and-tumble factory district into a retail hub.  Granville Island now tops most Vancouver to-do lists.  Jam-packed into a few blocks are dozens of waterfront restaurants, shops, an arts and theater complex, even a real, working brewery.

But the crown jewel, as any good Bachelorette fan knows, is the Granville Island Public Market.  Inside, hundreds of vendors sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to gourmet meats and cheeses to artisan breads and pastries.  Stop by the fresh pasta stands, and you can reenact the classic scene where Jillian Harris buys homemade tortellini for her big date.

I could continue my walking tour from here.  The trails wind deeper into the inlet, circle back the other side and eventually link with Stanley Park, the city’s 1,000-acre green zone.  But even an adventure stroll can be taken too far.

So, any other adventure stroll ideas?

Questions? Feedback? Post a comment below, and I’ll be happy to get back to you.

Remy Scalza

www.remyscalza.com

A travel blog about places you haven’t been

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