Malta’s small size and mild winters combine to make it possible to do some exploring on foot – possibly the best way to see and absorb more. While the tourist hubs and a good number of the island’s attractions are to be found elsewhere, Malta’s southeast should not be sniffed at either. Here’s a walking itinerary idea which takes in the south east coast Malta around Marsaxlokk Bay from Birzebbuga to Marsaskala – a distance which can be covered in about three hours or less.
Starting from Birzebbuga’s Pretty Bay, make your way north along the town’s elegant front. Birzebbuga itself is a mixed bag of tricks – once a humble summer resort with aspirations for bigger things; it is now a semi-industrial town – with the huge cantilevers and cranes of Malta’s Freeport dominating the town. Still, Pretty Bay mostly lives up to its name and at the head of the next bay (St.George’s Bay) one comes across a strange historical artefact – Bronze Age storage silos right next to the sea. Info boards next to the silos ensure you will not miss them.
Keep following the coast road through the unremarkable Birzebbuga suburb of Qajjenza and the next headland presents another imposing building. Fort St. Lucian (today housing an aquaculture centre) was originally a watch tower but by 1792 had been turned into a fully-fledged fort – the main defence point for this important harbour.
Past St. Lucian’s the road descends towards Marsaxlokk village. Bustling with evening diners in summer and with market crowds on Sundays, Marsaxlokk is otherwise a sleepy, authentic fishing community. Fishermen, going about their net-mending plus the stunningly colourful boats as a backdrop, present arguably the best this endearing town has to offer. A seaside café stop is definitely an option to consider here.
Leaving Marsaxlokk and (temporarily) the coast go up Triq tas-Silg and turn right where the Delimara Road (signposted) starts. The attractive chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows is found here. Follow Triq Delimara with its views over Marsaxlokk until the first turn left takes you past Tas-Silg Battery. If you hear a bit of barking here it’s because the battery now houses a sanctuary for abandoned dogs. The road continues towards the beach at Xrobb l-Ghagin – one of a number of sheltered coves along the Delimara promontory. There’s a small nature park here occupying the area formerly housing a Deutsche Welle relay station.
A little way before the park’s entrance take the small trek on the left past the park’s perimeter which brings you to the next headland – Munxar. Munxar is quite unique among Malta’s seascapes – a small v-shaped promontory of white cliffs jutting out into the sea. Undeniably this is one of the loveliest of this area’s lesser known spots.
Past Munxar stretches St.Thomas Bay – a popular summer beach blissfully deserted in winter. Curiously this bay was the site of the only recorded shark attack in Malta. It happened in 1956 when a retired naval officer by the name of Jack Smedley was reportedly attacked while swimming out in the bay. A plaque at the bay’s end commemorates this unusual incident.
Where St. Thomas Bay ends Marsaskala begins. Marsaskala is a well-heeled town and a playground for locals from nearby towns. It has a good number of restaurants and bars along its attractive and popular promenade. But a walk along its front reveals more. St. Thomas Tower – dating to 1614 and recently restored - is the town’s prime monument from the past and there is a good stretch of salt pans on the rocky shoreline. The town’s front also boasts a number of impressive villas and bungalows – among the best that local residential architecture has to offer.
Both Birzebbuga and Marsaskala are connected to Valletta by frequent bus services.