Marsascala is the closest port to the Grand Harbour and has always been Malta's secondary port.
In Roman times, Marsascala was a significant port with many ancient shipwrecks located around the bays of Marsascala and St. Thomas.
At the beginning of the 17th century, the only inhabitants in Marsascala were fishermen and local farmers who may well have cut out the various salt pans in the area. This soon became an important industry for the area.
Fawwara (overflow), in Marsascala, was an important fresh water spring. Water still oozes through the rocks after heavy rain.
In the 17th century, many ships stopped here to embark water, as no ship leaving Grand Harbour was allowed to take water aboard, to save all available water in the event of a siege on Valletta.
Marsascala was well situated as the closest port of call to embark water before leaving Malta. It was the importance of this spring that made Marsascala popular with many corsairs, and the fine harbour was well known to Muslim Pirates.
Less than fifty years after the Great Siege, Malta braced itself when a Turkish fleet appeared on the horizon. St. Elmo’s watchmen scoured the seas and soon recognised this was not a large enough force to mount a siege but enough to ravage the south of the Island.
The enemy sailed towards Marsaxlokk and as they approached the bay, the newly built tower of St Lucian quickly opened fire on the enemy, forcing a hasty retreat towards the undefended bays of Marsascala and St. Thomas.
St. Thomas Tower at Jerma had not yet been built, so the safe ports of Marsascala were ideal for an unopposed landing. Within an hour the fleet put many armed men on the ground with the intention to pillage. The Ottoman soldiers marched inland plundering churches and buildings in Zabbar and Zejtun.
The Knights rallied their troops and the local militia marched towards Zejtun where a battle ensued. A speedy assault by the Maltese cavalry soon got the better of the enemy and they hastily retreated back to Marsascala.
After this attack the Order’s council agreed that such landings close to Grand Harbour’s fortifications were a grave danger and built a fort to protect Marsascala Bay.
The tower was constructed to withstand a considerable attack with thick walls and equipped with many cannon; It was named after St Thomas. The tower stands above both bays and acted as a deterrent for years to come. It featured prominently during the Maltese rebellion against the French.
Today, the elegant resort of Marsascala has grown around the narrow sea-inlet on the southern coast of the island. What used to be a small fishing village has now developed into a sizeable seaside town with numerous houses and sumptuous villas, competing with the old dwellings on the shoreline.
Colourful fishing and sailing boats, riding on the clear water, enhance the cheerful aspect of the bay. Coastal bathing is widespread and the bay is full of popular restaurants and bars. Marsascala is now the biggest and most popular resort in the South.
ST. THOMAS BAY, near Marsascala, is a largish bay with small sandy banks and shallow water making it a terrific spot for bathing and snorkelling. Like Marsascala, it is fast growing into a seaside resort.