The small size of Malta means that wherever you are on the island, you are never far from the next swimming spot. The southwest facing side of Malta is where the majority of sandy beaches are found, whereas the northeast facing side is largely constituted of rocky coastline, which is nevertheless a favourite area among beach-goers and sun worshippers. In fact, the rocky stretch from St. Paul’s Bay to Bugibba and Qawra is spotted with several access points for swimmers. In the peak of summer many sunbathers gather to relax on the rocks and jetties in Bugibba and Qawra, as the large swimming area is ideal for all swimmers as well as being very closely located to all sorts of touristic amenities in the seaside resorts.
The most popular of Malta’s beaches are Ghadira Bay (also known as Mellieha Bay), located in the north of the island. The beach is the largest and most accessible sandy beach in Malta, and is easy to get to by public transport. With ample sun beds, deck chairs, and umbrellas to rent, the beach is a firm favourite among families, particularly due to the lagoon-type water that remains shallow for quite a distance out into the sea. The edge where the water meets the sand is a site of constant sandcastle building and beach ball playing with smiles and laughter all around.
For those that would rather avoid the crowds, setting off across the rocks on the edge of Ghadira Bay is the perfect opportunity to explore secluded swimming and snorkelling spots. Alternatively, wandering down the hill from the Selmun Palace, just near the village of Mellieha, will take you to a small and tranquil sandy beach called Imgiebah Bay. You can also drive down to the bay, but be warned that the road is a very narrow country lane that can be quite tricky to navigate, especially in large cars, and the beach does not have any amenities offering drinks or snacks.
Paradise Bay, in the very north next to the Cirkewwa ferry terminal from where ferries take off to Comino and Gozo, is set in a natural cove and is excellent for snorkelling. The sandy beach is quite small, but due to its isolated location, crystal clear turquoise water and wide range of facilities (including some water sports), Paradise Bay is quite a well-frequented beach at the weekends during summer. Located not too far from Paradise Bay, are the two small sandy beaches of Armier Bay and Little Armier. The bay has a stunning view across to Comino and the crystalline sea is ideal for families. Armier is quite cut off and is most conveniently reached by car. However, due to its secluded location, Armier is calm, peaceful and mostly frequented by locals, particularly on summer weekends.
Most Maltese will claim that the two bays of Golden Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Bay are their favourites on the island, and for good reason. These two attractive beaches are located right next to each other on Malta’s southwest facing coast. Both beaches have rich golden sand, clear water with a sandy bottom, and water sports and snack facilities on the beach. They are also both easily reached by car and public transport. Both bays are excellent spots for sunbathing and swimming, and Golden Bay also offers great dining due to the 5* Radisson Blu Golden Sands Resort. Ghajn Tuffieha is a little smaller and takes a bit more effort to get to due to the long, steep staircase that winds down to the beach. However, this also means that, even though both beaches can be quite busy during summer, Ghajn Tuffieha is normally the quieter option especially during the week. Behind the beach at Ghajn Tuffieha are walking paths that lead to other tiny beaches and inlets for those willing to hike a little way to complete isolation. The southwest facing location of both beaches also makes the area a perfect location from which to take in Malta’s breathtaking summer sunsets.
Located not too far along the coast from Ghajn Tuffieha and Golden Bay and just past the village of Mgarr is Gnejna Bay. This is one of the most serene parts of Malta and the beach in Gnejna is where many local families while away their summer weekends and after-work afternoons. The beach is sandy but the bay has also got large areas of flat limestone where people can sunbathe and relax away from the sand. Even though it can get a little busy at the weekend, Gnejna Bay is still one of the quietest and most peaceful beaches in Malta and a great location for families with children.
If Gnejna Bay still isn’t quiet enough, a short drive from Mgarr is Fomm ir-Rih. This bay is the definition of what it means to go off the beaten track in search of solitude. Fomm ir-Rih is very remote and quite inaccessible. The cliffs that fringe the bay can only be accessed by car and the beach is located at the bottom of a tricky footpath, making it quite inappropriate for small children but much loved by adventurous hikers. The bay itself is idyllic and perfect for snorkelling and, while the pebbly beach is quite small, it slopes into the refreshing Maltese sea. Perhaps the only point of concern here is that care should be taken under the midday summer sun due to the lack of shaded areas.
The further south one travels along Malta’s southwestern coast, the more inaccessible the water becomes due to the high imposing cliffs that span this part of the island. That said, the deep blue water here is an enticing sight. One access point to the water on this side of Malta is Ghar Lapsi, which is less of a beach and more of a hidden cove nestled into the cliffy landscape and particularly popular among local fishermen and snorkellers. There isn’t much space for sunbathing, but the bay is very popular among those looking for a good swim in the stunning surroundings with a view out to the open Mediterranean Sea.
The southern end of Malta has a few beaches and bays that are very popular with locals. St. Thomas’ Bay, near the town of Marsaskala, is quite secluded and has a rocky coastline with a few sandy banks. The bay is a fishermen’s cove and a handful of restaurants there offer delicious fresh fish. Quite close to St. Thomas’ Bay is St. Peter’s Pool, a rocky inlet with crystal clear water of the Mediterranean mix of turquoise and blue. St. Peter’s Pool is a little difficult to get to and not really suitable for inexperienced swimmers, but the flat rocks offer a wonderful sunbathing area, and adventurous swimmers will enjoy the possibility to jump into the shimmering water from rocks at the height of a few metres. A short drive from St. Peter’s Pool is Pretty Bay, the only completely sandy beach in the south of the island. The bay is located in Birzebbuga and is well frequented by families as well as those after fun water sports and beach activities.
The commercial and touristic centre of the island – St. Julian’s and Sliema – should also not be overlooked when it comes to swimming. The coastline along St. Julian’s and Sliema is of flat limestone rock that is ideal for sunbathing and there are many access points from which to get into the deep blue water. St. George’s Bay, a sandy beach in St. Julian’s, is a charming bay and a great alternative for those swimmers after a more sheltered beach from which to swim but still remain close to the touristic centre in St. Julian’s and Sliema. The facilities offered all along this stretch of coastline are second to none as the centre of activity throughout the year.
With warm temperatures in spring and autumn and under the summer heat, the bays and beaches across Malta are well worth a visit. While some bays and beaches are harder to get to than others, with such a collection of pristine beaches and bays, spectacular sea views and clear water, it is hard to fault Malta as a destination for a worthwhile Mediterranean beach holiday.