Malta boasts 300 days of sunshine per year, making it the ultimate holiday destination. Head to Mellieha – the country’s northernmost town – to explore Għadira Bay, St Agatha’s Tower and the quirky Popeye film set.
Mellieha sits neatly atop the ridge between St Paul’s Bay and Mellieha Bay. It’s much smaller and quieter than Valletta with a laid-back feel, surrounded by lush green mountains and the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. The longest beach in Malta, all white sands and clear water, is just a 15-minute stroll downhill. Discover Mellieha’s must-visit attractions including centuries-old chapels and excellent restaurants.
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Also known as Għadira Bay, at 800m (2,624ft) this is the longest beach in Malta. The waters are clear, warm and shallow, edged with white sand, making this spot safe for kids and great for swimming. The summer facilities are excellent with sunbeds, umbrellas and kiosks selling drinks and snacks. Expect to see water skiers, kite-surfers and banana boats zipping across the sea. You can also catch boat trips to Comino from here.
Popeye Village started out as a functioning film backdrop, constructed in Anchor Bay for the 1980 musical production Popeye (starring the late Robin Williams). Its crooked buildings still stand today as a major tourist attraction, filled with colourful activities and themed food outlets. Enjoy boat trips, swimming pools, water trampolines and an inflatable obstacle course in the water. It’s open all year round.
Once the city’s parish church, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha is a window into the town’s storied past. It’s the oldest shrine to the Virgin Mary in Malta and stands on the site of a medieval cave. Take a look at the Byzantine-style fresco behind the altarpiece – it’s thought to date back to the 12th century. Roman Catholics flock from all over the world to worship here, as it is listed as one of 20 National European Shrines.
The clue is in the name: this gem offers incredible 180-degree views down to Mellieha Bay. If you stop for lunch on the way to the beach, you may see your afternoon meld into a sunset dinner. Order mezze-style sharing plates for the table. The Crudo of Fish plate includes aljotta (seafood soup), Gillardeau oysters and sea urchins. There’s a cocktail lounge for when plans go completely awry. Keep your eyes peeled for local art by George Fenech on the walls.
The best holiday sea swims involve water so clear you can see your toes beneath the surface. Armier Bay offers calm, clear and shallow water and is much quieter than Mellieha Bay, which has much to do with its rural location. It’s a spot beloved by locals because you can’t see any big resorts from here, only a tiny fishing village. On the sandy beach, rent sunbeds and umbrellas before ordering drinks, ice creams and hot snacks from one of the various rustic kiosks.
This air-raid shelter can be found just a few steps from Mellieha’s main square. It was dug by hand during World War II and reaches a depth of 12m (39ft). The complex is made up of long corridors, stretching over 500m (1,640ft), anti-blast chambers and private rooms big enough to house entire families. There’s also a maternity section and a secure room for national treasures.
Why not swap beaches for a spot of bird watching? You can do just that at Għadira Nature Reserve. It’s a protected area made up of salt marshes and a large sweeping lake, run by enthusiastic volunteers. You will have access to some of Malta’s most interesting wildlife from rare birds to hard-to-spot chameleons. The reserve is part of Malta’s Birdlife Project and it’s open every day apart from Wednesdays between September and May.
It’s worth swinging by St Agatha’s Tower for the view alone. Perched atop St Marfa’s Ridge in Mellieha, it was built in 1649 as a watchtower to monitor the expanse looking across to Gozo island. Nicknamed the Red Tower due to its painted facade, houses a small chapel within its petite size. Learn more about the history of the tower by picking up a multi-language leaflet inside.
Mountain biking; kayaking; cliff-top hiking for the active bunch – Gozo packs in a wide variety of fun experiences for its small stature. History fans will be drawn to the megalithic temples at Ggantija and the recently restored Il-Kastell fortress. Finish the day with a laid-back seafood meal before making the 25-minute trip back to the Maltese mainland.
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