Zirconium oxide-loaded granular activated carbon (Zr-GAC) was prepared for adsorption of sulfate ion in aqueous solution. The Zr-GAC was characterized by scanning electron microscopy(SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray photoelecton spectroscopy (XPS) and specific surface area measurement. The results showed that the Zr-GAC has a porous surface with many aggregates, which are composed of zirconium oxides. XPS analysis confirms the massive presence of zirconium and hydroxyl groups in the adsorbent surface. The specific surface area of activated carbon decreased after modification with zirconium oxides. Batch adsorption experiments were conducted to determine effect of the pH on sulfate adsorption, and better adsorption can be achieved at pH lower than 10. Modeling analysis of adsorption isotherms show that Dubinin-Radushkevich (D-R) equation has better fittings than Langmuir model, and the maximum adsorption capacity determined by D-R equation is 70.14 mg/g in neural water solution, which is much higher than that of raw GAC (8.9 mg/g). It is noticed that the D-R equation may have problem in determination of adsorption energy for a solution adsorption, which deserves more research. Kinetic studies show that adsorption of sulfate on the Zr-GAC is relatively fast, and it follows pseudo second-order kinetic equation. In addition, an increase of temperature may facilitate sulfate adsorption to some extent. The Zr-GAC shows good potential for adsorption of sulfate ion in aqueous solution, especially it exhibits an approximately twice adsorption capacity and a much wider applicable range of pH compared with zirconium-loaded biochar adsorbent.