Urban cruising in B.C. doesn't get much better.
CONSIDERED ONE OF THE MOST livable cities in the world, Vancouver boasts spectacular mountain views, an amazing collection of beaches and parks, and a bustling urban core famous for its diversity. The City of Glass sparkles in the sunlight and twinkles at night.
Arriving at False Creek last summer, we found it active with a lively mix of watercraft, from mini-ferries to rowing shells, canoes and kayaks to teams of dragon boats to a steady procession of commercial charters and tugs pulling barges.
We had three goals for our visit: provisioning, dining out and seeing some of the area’s attractions.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
False Creek is not a creek, and Granville Island is not an Island. When the Royal Navy was originally charting the area, the creek seemed to be an outlet of the Fraser Delta. When it was discovered that it ended after only a mile and a half, the cartographers scribbled “false” beside the word “creek.” Despite an attempt to change its name to Pleasant Inlet in 1891, the False Creek name stuck. The original two sandbars on the creek were enlarged in 1915 when a million cubic yards of fill were dredged up to create an “industrial island.” In 1950, Granville Island was transformed into a peninsula when six acres were reclaimed from the “creek” along its south channel.
False Creek is a busy place, and moorage can be difficult to find, so it’s best to make reservations in advance at one of the marinas. For our visit, Arlene and I had a reservation at Quayside (pronounced “key side”) Marina on the north shore, in the trendy and vibrant Yaletown district. Most of the slips are for permanent moorage, but guest moorage is available for vessels up to 120 feet. The facilities include 30-, 50- and 100-amp power, water, washrooms, showers, laundry, pumpout, garbage, recycling and Wi-Fi.
Across the street from the marina are two excellent restaurants, Provence Marinaside and Bella Gelateria. The former offers a menu inspired by the culture and countryside of southern France, while the latter specializes in tasty Italian selections. For provisioning needs, the Urban Fare Market — excellent meat and cheese selections and well stocked produce, deli, bakery and dairy departments — is 100 yards from the head of the dock.
It’s mandatory to obtain an anchoring permit before setting the hook. For free permits, information and maps, visit the Vancouver Welcome Centre, which is open seven days a week and is actually a well-marked boat tied to the outside dock of the False Creek Yacht Club. Call it at (604) 648-2628 or on VHF Channel 66A.
TO MARKET, TO MARKET
The following morning, one of the small foot ferries took us to roam the lively Granville Island Public Market. For a minimal charge, the harbor’s many attractions are made easily accessible by two ferry companies: False Creek Ferries and Aquabus.
We discovered a provisioning paradise as we strolled through the centerpiece of Granville Island, the Granville Public Market — a wild mix of colors, artful pyramids of fruits and vegetables, bright display cases of deli meats and cheeses, presentations of shimmering fresh fish, and the tantalizing aromas of exotic spices and fresh-baked breads. Our challenge was keeping purchases to an amount that we could carry and, more importantly, stow aboard Easy Goin’.
One of the vendors that caught my attention, maybe because of my Italian heritage or the aromas that took me back to my childhood, was the family-operated Dussa’s Ham & Cheese. It offered unique cheeses from all over the world, a large selection of ham (Italian mortadella, prosciutto and bunderfleish), pasta, sauces, olives and assorted antipasti.
With meat and cheese in hand, our next stop was Terra Breads for some fresh sourdough.
Along Duranleau Street, on the island’s west side, we found a variety of marine supplies, a museum, a kayaking center, fishing charters and yacht brokers. If a large selection of marine products is on the agenda, Steveston Marine & Hardware, Vancouver’s best-known and largest marine supply store, is a half-mile walk southwest from Granville Island.
Just south of the Public Market is the Net Loft, a complex of specialty shops. Here, we discovered books of all kinds, handcrafted glass, fabric shops, art supplies, galleries and musical instruments.
In the Railspur District, we watched broom-makers and learned the history and folklore of the rare craft at the Granville Island Broom Co. Sisters Mary and Sarah Schwieger learned to make brooms from their family while growing up. The brooms are woven using Shaker methods and designed to withstand years with regular use. In addition to being a classic household tool, brooms are seen as a symbol of good luck around the world.
After a morning of wandering the island, we stopped for lunch and a taste of ale at the Granville Island Brewery before continuing our island exploration. If you desire something other than pub fare, the island offers a variety of restaurants to satisfy any crew’s taste.
At Vancouver’s Maritime Museum, we discovered a world-class collection of objects and stories. Among the many items on display are three wonders not to be missed. The first is the Newt Suit, a wearable submarine built in 1984 by Vancouver designer Phil Nuytten. Second is the Arnold 176 Chronometer, which Capt. George Vancouver relied on to accurately determine longitude on his voyage of discovery. The mechanical marvel was later carried by Capt. Bligh of “Mutiny on the Bounty” fame.
The final must-see is the museum’s centerpiece. The schooner St. Roch was one of the world’s great Arctic exploration vessels and is an icon of Canadian Arctic sovereignty. Visitors can go aboard, step back in time, and explore her deck and cabins. Built in 1928 to serve as an Arctic supply and patrol vessel for the R.C.M.P., in 1942 she became the first ship to cross from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Northwest Passage, making a 27-month voyage from Vancouver to Halifax along the northern edge of the continent. Two years later, she returned to Vancouver via the more northerly, deep-water route, making the east-to-west journey in only 86 days. St. Roch was the first ship to complete the hazardous journey in both directions.
False Creek has plenty to offer visiting boaters. For comfort food, head for Mahony & Sons at Stamp’s Landing. Dining on Bridges Restaurant’s large deck, actually a dock, is a favorite of Vancouverites and visitors. The Dockside Restaurant in the Granville Island Hotel offers a Sunday brunch with jazz music. For more laid-back dining, try a meal at The Wicklow Pub on Stamp’s Landing. Fish and chips are popular at the takeout concession Go Fish, on Fishermen’s Wharf.
AROUND THE CREEK
Visitors will find plenty of things to do during a visit. A few of the more popular activities include a trip to Science World in the Geodesic Dome at the head of the creek to learn about science through interactive exhibits, a dip in the naturally lit indoor pool at the Aquatic Center or a visit to Edgewater Casino — slot machines, gaming tables and live entertainment. All are accessible via foot ferry.
Arlene and I spent three days in False Creek but were unable to see and do everything we wanted. If you’re looking for a lively urban port, the City of Glass is hard to beat.