Words by Crysta Darmanin – Malta Baby & Kids Directory
The Maltese archipelago has a wealth of both rocky and sandy beach options for families to choose from. Locals and visitors alike are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing which beach to go to for a relaxing family day out. During the summertime we take to the beaches in our droves, and despite our best efforts to avoid the midday sun, weekends tend to mean long, hot days frolicking by the seaside. Children seem to like nothing better than the combination of water and sand to play in-especially as they are given a free reign to get as messy and wet as they desire!
It is worth trying to make it down to the beach as early in the season as the weather permits-even if the sea is too cold to take a dip in. My favorite months for going down by the sea are May and October; the former because school going children will be gearing up for exams and the latter as locals tend to get bored of the beach by then. Luckily, the plentiful Maltese public holidays present ample opportunities for day trips to Gozo, and a visit to some lovely seaside picnic spots. Mġarr ix-Xini is a quiet inlet located between Xewkija and Sannat. The small pebble bay is set in a cosy gorge surrounded by cliffs and caves. It's crystal clear water makes this an ideal spot for snorklers and divers to explore a variety of caves tunneling their way through the steep, rocky cliff face. The Mġarr ix-Xini kiosk serves up fresh catch of the day in an atmosphere which is hard to beat, and extremely child-friendly.
Back to Malta, underneath the Aquarium lies a small shack of Ta' Fra Ben. This modest venue is a great place to sit and have an ice-cream, or if their limited outdoor space is full, take a hobża and a drink down to one of the numerous stone benches dotted around the rocky hill, descending into the bay. The real attraction here is the view, looking out watching the sun set over the tiny island a few meters out to sea. A concrete path leading down to a ladder makes swimming easier than risking tender winter soles on the jagged rocks jutting out treacherously. This is an ideal spot for an early evening swim, although it may be difficult to persuade your children that it's time to leave!
My most cherished sandy beach has got to be the picturesque Ġnejna Bay. The drive down from the village square alone, showcasing Maltese landscape at its best is enough to make you glad that you made the effort. Ample parking, a stone's throw away from the sand, makes it easy to carry down the numerous bags of sand toys and paraphernalia which we mummies inevitably find ourselves carting around on a day out to the seaside. In season, a large raft is anchored in the middle of the bay-so that for those who endeavor to venture out, jumping in and climbing out can while away the time. For those of you who dislike having to wade through seaweed and step over numerous pebbles to enjoy a swim-the short walk to the facing rocks has a ladder hanging down into the sea which may simplify getting wet. A long way off the beaten track, awaits the aptly named Paradise Bay. Best tackled with the aid of some manpower, the eager trudge down to this sandy seashore quickly turns into a sweaty trek upon your departure. The long-standing management of the restaurant and cafe servicing the bay are extremely well organized and endeavor to put their best efforts into making their visitors experience an outstanding one. The sand is raked on a regular basis, toilets and showers are reasonably priced and I have even witnessed staff fishing out jellyfish with a net! Recently the addition of a jellyfish net makes the task of keeping sea pests at bay far easier.
More of a challenge to locate, let alone to get to, the deep blue sea at St. Peter's Pool at Delimara Point is by far the most secluded family friendly seaside spot that I have come across. Pack your trekking boots though, and leave the elderly relatives at home, as the narrow dirt track proves challenging if you encounter a vehicle coming from the opposite direction, and have to face a standoff to see who will be the first to give in and have to reverse the entire length of the road first! I speak from experience as my husband refused to budge when he came bumper to bumper with a pickup truck-and it was only when the two large men pulled out a couple of beers from their picnic cooler that we acknowledged defeat! Be sure to bring everything along with you in a cold storage bag, as there is nowhere to buy anything within the vicinity of the beach. Sporadically, you might come across some enterprising individuals- either selling cold bottles of water in the car park- or hear the welcome fog horn of the ice-cream speed boat meandering along the seashore, or the one who, in my opinion, takes the prize for most original business acumen – the omnipresent doughnut seller- this time trading from his craft in order to offset the cost of his day out! It is a difficult climb through prickly shrub to reach the shade of this smooth rocky bay, but well worth the hassle. Unless you intend to take shelter from the sun under the overhanging rocks around the bay, best bring a portable parasol along also.
Upon setting sight on Blue Lagoon, whether looking around you in awe from aboard a boat, or gazing down in awe from the surrounding Comino hills-you might be forgiven for thinking that you may have inadvertently landed on a film set. Just out of season, a youth charitable institution organizes round trip kayak tours from Paradise Bay to the Blue Lagoon – by far the best way to visit Comino with your kids! The arduous crossing is rewarded with a long awaited plunge into the refreshing waters of the Blue Lagoon, with just enough time to explore the caves and climb to the top of the hill overlooking the tiny patch of sand-before heading back again. The children can tandem with an adult, and enjoy the challenge as they tend to think of it as a 'race' rather than a marathon, thus bringing out their competitive streak! Also, the added bonus of toned biceps goes down very well with the parents.
For those of you who like to do a little something more than just swim, Blue Grotto in Wied iż-Zurrieq has short boat trips around the surrounding caves, which provide family fun for both young and old alike. The shoreline of the inland sea has been covered by smooth concrete, and swimming is marred by the boats mooring a little too close for comfort. The real attractions here are underwater- so strap on your flippers and snorkel and take your young ones through the cave to the open sea!
The largest sandy beach , divided into three sections , it is easy to see why Mellieħa has become an obvious choice for Sunday beach day outings, when up to three generations of relatives meet up for some summer fun. Parking can be difficult during the high season, so it is worth getting there early to secure a place along the promenade. Every local family has their favorite spot on the sand-and ours is alongside the Adira Sailing Club-where we hire sun beds and an umbrella and take turns sitting around the tables reading the weekend newspapers. The children run wild way out into the sea, going from shallow to deeper back to shallow once more before the sandy sea bed becomes too deep to reach. On shore, sandcastle competitions compete with burying each other in the sand and just standing still while tiny fish oblige you with a pedicure! The best time to go is a late afternoon on a weekday, as this popular beach can easily become crowded. The floating water gym is a great alternative to the usual sandy beach pursuits, as are the paddle boats for hire. We stay in the vicinity of the bar, with facilities and a snack bar downstairs, and an outdoor seating restaurant upstairs.
Once again our sister island wins hands down in the sandy beach category with the much renowned Ramla il-Ħamra. This long stretch of red sand is surrounded to one side by hills , offering trekking opportunities for the more adventurous children who wish to explore the craggy rocks jutting out near the shore close up. The refectory style tables set amongst large trees offer much needed shade and a couple of nearby cafes ensure you will not go hungry. Another top notch sandy beach-especially for a springtime picnic where the kids will keep themselves entertained and busy without much assistance from your end!
Mistra Bay, accessible by car via a detour leading off the main road from Xemxija to Mellieħa, has a considerably less touristy vibe than most of the other local sandy beaches, as you will need your own transport to reach it. Driving uphill from the sandy beach, make like a local and abandon the car wherever takes your fancy to walk down-lock, stock and barrel-to the rugged water's edge. Quiet and great for those who don't mind roughing it, the steep cliff edge makes jumping in to the sparkling Mediterranean the easiest way to access the cool, clear water. Portable parasol, plenty of water and snacks are necessary to turn this off the beaten track experience into a successful family excursion.
It is thanks to the picturesque surroundings of local beaches, coupled with the peace of mind that the safety of the surrounding Mediterranean Sea has to offer, which help to make The Maltese Islands a dream beach destination for locals and tourists alike.