Sunset over Marsaskala Malta
Europe

Marsaskala Malta – Relaxing on Malta’s Southeast Coast

Marsaskala Malta is not one of Malta’s top tourist destinations.  It’s a bit off the beaten path and it boasts no major sites. So why I am writing about it?  Because we spent a wonderful week in Marsaskala while traveling in Malta, and I think anyone looking for less touristy, more authentic Maltese experience should absolutely give it a look.  Let me show you why we loved Marsaskala Malta. 

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Discovering Marsaskala Malta

I put together our trip to Malta pretty quickly.  We had just returned home from a month in Spain at the end of March, and decided to try for another European trip in May, before the busy (and more expensive) summer season started.  We love Europe and COVID kept us away for far too long.  Malta has been on my radar for quite a while, and knowing that it was a small island nation, I figured I wouldn’t need a lot of time to throw a trip together – as The Thorough Tripper, I can drive myself crazy with trip planning sometimes.

In researching areas to stay in Malta, I found Marsaskala towards the bottom of someone’s list.  It was described as a former fishing village with a more authentic vibe.  That caught my attention – I really liked the sound of that.  

When I did a quick search on Booking.com of Marsaskala Malta, I came across a rental with a perfectly positioned balcony offering this view…..

The view from Seaside Apartments in Marsaskala Malta

I immediately fell in love.  A balcony, a small harbor, a Maltese skyline.  Perfect!

I ultimately decided we would spend our first couple weeks in The Three Cities – a more central location allowing us easier access to the most popular sites in Malta. But I also decided that our final week would be a little more relaxing, and we would spend it on Malta’s southeast coast in Marsaskala. 

The Harbor and Promenade at Marscaskala Malta

Our Lodging in Maraskala Malta

That vacation rental with the great view is called Seaside Apartments.  I can’t imagine a better location to stay in Marsaksala Malta.  It’s directly across the street from Marsaskala’s popular harborside promenade.  There are several restaurants within a few steps.  And a small grocery store just a bit further.  

The exterior of the Seaside Apartments in Marsaskala Malta
Seaside Apartments on the right – our balcony was the bottom one

The building itself is modern, the apartment is huge, and of course…the view!  We spent a lot of time on that balcony.  There are 3 other apartments in the building – two of which have balconies too.  The host Justine was super responsive as I planned our stay. And she even left sandwiches on the kitchen table for us on our arrival.  

Click here to visit the Seaside Apartments listing on Booking.com

Things to Do In Marsaskala Malta

I didn’t really prepare for our stay in Marsaskala like I typically do.  I knew that we had a great balcony, and I knew that we might be tired and wanting to relax some.  After all, we had just been on the go go go for a month in Spain, and would be again for the first part of our Malta trip.  I figured we would just go with the flow in Marsaskala

And we did.  But while going with the flow, we still found all kinds of great things to do in Marsaskala Malta.

St Thomas Bay

Every day in Marsaskala, we would go out for a walk, and explore a different section of the nearby Mediterranean coastline.  One day we headed south for about a kilometer and discovered St Thomas Bay.  Turns out that this is a popular beach spot for locals. And once we found it, St Thomas Bay ended up being our second favorite place to hang out in Marsaskala – second only to our balcony.

Most of Malta’s coast is made of limestone.  In fact, I hadn’t seen a sandy beach in Malta until we found St Thomas Bay.  And there are two small sandy beaches here – both always packed with people.

A sandy beach at St Thomas Bay in southern Malta
One of the sandy beaches at St Thomas Bay

But there are also lots of limestone beaches surrounding St Thomas Bay.  And we found that we really loved these. 

Limestone beaches and cliffs at St Thomas Bay in southern Malta

We purchased mats and beach towels at a local store, and spent several hours each subsequent day hanging out on the rock.  The limestone was smooth and not uncomfortable to lay on.  There were several prescribed places were we could enter the water if we wanted. But since we were visiting in May, the water was cold.  We were content just hang out and relax in the near perfect 78 degree weather.  Plus, there was no sand to clean off when we were done.

Sun bathing on the limestone beaches of St Thomas Bay in Malta
Hanging out in a limestone crevice along the southern coast of Malta

All along the north side of the bay, there are scattered kiosks and eateries.  Plus a public restroom.  We ate at Fajtata Kiosk for three consecutive daily lunches. It’s unusual for us to eat at the same place more than twice – we generally want to try as many eating spots as we can. But at the Fajtata Kiosk the views were great, the food was great, the prices were great, and the staff was great.

The Fajtata Kiosk at St Thomas Bay
The view from the Fajtata Kiosk at St Thomas Bay
Lunch at the Fajtata Kiosk at St Thomas Bay.  Fish & Chips and Smoked Salmon Salad
Giant pieces of Beer-Battered Fish and a Smoked Salmon Salad in the background

Water Sports – We Rented a Boat!

On our first day exploring St Thomas Bay, we came across a large truck in a bayside parking lot surrounded by colorful flags.  This turned out to be SIPS Watersports.  No one was there at the time, but I took a look at the service menu on the side of their truck, which included jet skis and kayaks and stand-up paddle boards.  But I immediately became intrigued with their self-drive boat offering.  

SIPS Watersports bayside truck in Marsaskala Malta
The informational sign at SIPS waterspouts

We Jepson’s have a long and colorful history with boating misadventure.  I’ve been stuck on many a lake with many a motor issue (click here to read about one such episode at Grand Lake Colorado).  So theoretically, the thought of driving a boat myself,  for the first time on an ocean no less, should not have been considered.  

But, it just sounded like too much fun, and the perfect way for do-it-yourself travelers like us to explore the southern Malta coast.  I checked out SIPS Google reviews.  After all, I think it’s realistic to take pause before renting water sports equipment out of an unmanned bayside truck. But the reviews were all excellent. And so I texted the number on the truck and made arrangements for the next day. 

Exploring the Southern Malta Coast 

And we had a great time! Pierre and his son Andre were so nice, and quickly taught us everything I needed to know in order to drive their 18 foot boat with its 85 horsepower engine.  They gave us a general idea of where to go and what to see along the area’s coastline.  Plus I found that my Google Maps GPS worked even out on the ocean, so I always knew exactly where I was.  

SIPS Watersport's 18 foot self-drive boat at St Thomas Bay Malta

I negotiated our way through all the bouys in the bay, and we made our way out to sea.  I’ve driven a boat on lakes before, and the waters out in the ocean were a little rougher, but it wasn’t difficult at all. 

The Thorough Tripper skippering a self drive rental boat from SIPS Watersports in southern Malta

We drove into each of the smaller bays along the coast in between Marsaskala and the next major town called Marsarkloxx.  The two most popular spots on this coastline are Hofnet Window – where a limestone archway divides two bays, and St Peter’s Pool – a crowded diving and swimming hole. 

A map of Malta's southeast coast line with a GPS dot of our self-drive boat
Malta’s southeast coast – we explored from SIPS down to the end of this map. The blue dot is us.

We also stopped and put down our anchor near the Hofnet Window for about 30 minutes.  Mrs. TT sunbathed up front, and I just took it all in. 

Hofnet Window along the southern coast of Malta
The Hofnet Window

Our 2 hours out to sea cost 100 Euros. Well worth the experience! We could have stayed out longer if we had wanted, for an additional $45 Euro per hour. But I felt that two hours was just about right.

So, Any Misadventures? 

I did find it a bit intimidating to drive around some of the larger boats that were parked in the smaller bays, so I didn’t drive too deeply inside (though Andre told me I could get as close as 50 meters to the shore if I wanted).  

Boats anchored along the southern Malta coast
Our neighbors while we anchored

And once Marsoxloxx came into view we decided to turn around rather than go any further.  The waves at this particular point were bigger than either of us were comfortable with in our smallish boat.  I can’t swim, and even though I overcame some ocean swimming fears at Buck Island in St Croix USVI, we didn’t want to push our luck. 

But otherwise, no problems at all.  I had cell service the whole time. And Andre reassured us that he was always a quick jet ski ride away.  I will admit that after we pulled up the anchor at the end of our 30 minute stop, I did hold my breath a bit as I pushed the restart button on the engine.  But it started immediately!  Maybe the Jepson boating curse has been lifted. 

A “Day Trip” to  Marsaxlokk

Most foreign tourists looking for a fishing village experience in southern Malta go to Marsaxlokk rather than Marsaskala.  Marsaxlokk has a more active fishing port, its harbor is lined with significantly more seafood restaurants, and it has a daily outdoor market stretching along the harbor too.  

Fishing boats packed into Marsaxlokk harbor in Malta

I had considered staying in Marsaxlokk instead of Marsaskala, but my Google Images research showed me that the harbor in Marsaxlokk wasn’t nearly as picturesque.  And after visiting Marsaxlokk, I’m so glad we stayed in Marsaskala.  Its harbor view is marred by a lot of industrial development on the horizon, and its very touristy – buses of tourists touristy. 

Lunch at Ta’ Victor

But Marsaxlokk is still worth a visit for the food.  We took a 10 minute ride share over for lunch one day, and we did enjoy our best overall meal in Malta while there.  

Since a lot of the restaurants along the harbor cater to tourists, you can surely find an overpriced, mediocre meal in Marsaxlokk.  

I did my research though and chose Ta’ Victor.  It’s not directly on the harbor.  It sits on a small town square just off the harbor, next to the town’s church.  

Outdoor dining in a town square next to the church in Marsaxlokk Malta
Ta’ Victor’s outdoor tables on the right

Victor is considered a local celebrity chef and does all the cooking himself.  He serves a 5-course prix fixe meal costing only $29 Euros for lunch. We did have our choice of several main course options – which vary according to the daily catch.  And we both concluded that it was our best overall meal in Malta

Here’s a look at some of our selections:

The Maltese Platter at Ta' Victor
One of Malta’s most common appetizers – the Maltese Platter featuring sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, sausage, ftira bread, olives, and bean dip called Bigilla.
The Pasta of the Day at Ta' Victor
Pasta of the Day which varies daily. This day – Ravioli stuffed with sheep’s cheese
Fresh-caught steamed Sea Bass stuffed with tomatoes, capers, and herbs
Seared Tuna at Ta' Victor
Fresh-caught seared Tuna. Tuna is only in season for a few months each year in Malta

What About The Market? 

Ehhh. We saw most of the same things in Valletta.

The daily market and harbor  in Marsaxlokk Malta

 

Marsaskala Miscellany

Hotel Ruins

If you spend any time exploring Marsaskala, you will inevitably come across the ruins of the Jerma Palace Hotel.  This was a functioning 4-star hotel from 1982-2007, and was in fact the largest hotel in southern Malta at the time.  It shut down in, fell into disrepair, and has been completely stripped over the ensuing years.  In fact, looking at it now, it’s hard to believe that it was once an actual functioning hotel.

Plans have been underway for years to tear it down and replace it, but nothing is in the immediate works from what we could ascertain on the internet. It’s an undeniable eyesore in an otherwise beautiful spot, but it doesn’t lack for interest.  Street artists are currently using it as their canvas.  

Street art and graffiti on the ruins of Marsaskala's Jerma Palace Hotel

Salt Pans

If you love ancient salt pans, then go to Malta.  If you didn’t know you loved ancient salt pans, then once you visit Malta, you will. They can be found in several places along the limestone coastline of these islands. You can find several examples while walking along the coast in Marsaskala. They aren’t used to collect sea salt anymore, but they sure are picturesque. Plus they are really interesting to walk through.

Salt pans south of Marsaskala harbor. And…those are the ruins of the Jerma Hotel in the distance

Saint Thomas Tower

This watchtower, constructed in 1614, sits directly across the street from the Jerma hotel site and is currently undergoing renovation.

St Tomas Tower in Marsaskala Malta

The Promenade and Harbor

Marsaskala’s Harbor is beautiful and it features a wide harborside promenade that wraps all the way around.  It is an extremely popular place for local residents to walk – especially in the early morning and evenings.  We would walk it regularly as well, often at sunset.

Sunset while walking the promenade in Marsaskala Malta

And as I have pointed out before on this blog, when you go walking, you get your greatest taste of local life.  For example….

The Morning Catch

While Marsaskala isn’t the busy fishing harbor that Masaxlokk is, it is still an active fishing harbor.  This family would pull up and sell their morning catch on a regular basis to anyone passing by.

The day's catch being sold harbor side in Marsaskala Malta

A Sinking Ship

Unfortunately, I watched one night as this boat sank.  I’m not sure what happened exactly.  I presume there was a breach in the hull.  I watched the owners scramble to try and save it.  To no avail.  

A sinking boat in the harbor at Marsaskala Malta

Morning Fog

One morning, I awoke to find the only instance of fog the whole time we were in Malta.  I quickly crossed the street to the promenade and grabbed some of my favorite photos from our trip

Some Favorite Marsaskala Malta Restaurants

Though Marsaskala doesn’t have the density of seafood restaurants found in Marsaxlokk, it still has lots of great places to eat.  And as you would hope, many of these are right along the harbor. 

Outdoor restaurant tables line the harbor side in Marsaskala Malta

I was surprised at the diversity of cuisine in Marsaskala – Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese along with the usual selection of great Italian restaurants that we found throughout Malta.  Plus Maltese food.  And quite a few sports bars/pubs as well.  You can click here to see Tripadvisor’s complete list of restaurants rankings for Masaskala Malta.

Some of our own favorites included:

Angela’s Restaurant

Yes, Marsaskala does have fresh fish.  Like this Sea Bream with Capers, Tomatoes, and Arugula at Angela’s. TripAdvisor ranks Angela’s as the second best restaurant in Marsaskala.

Sotto Pinsa Romana

Most of the pizza throughout Malta is a Neapolitan style.  Sotto Pinsa Romano, which has locations throughout Malta, specializes in Roman-style pizza.  Different consistency in the crust,  different shape.  I had them cut back on the cheese for me a little since I’m lactose intolerant.  But you get the idea….  And I loved it!

Tiny Mint

This was our favorite restaurant in Marsascala.  We ate dinner here on each of our last two nights in town.  Tiny Mint is indeed tiny.  Just 6 tables – 2 inside and 4 outside (with a view of the harbor).   It specializes in Maltese cuisine with some Italian favorites as well.  The friendly chef personally greeted us both nights, and the service was the best we had throughout our entire trip. 

Octopus Pasta with Tomatoes, Capers, Olives, and Peas
Bragioli – a traditional Maltese dish. Thin slices of beef braised in wine wrapped around a stuffing made from ground beef, bacon, egg, bread crumbs, herbs

Final Thoughts 

Most visitors don’t have three weeks to spend in Malta like we did.  So could Marsaskala be used as a sole base for seeing all the great sites in this great country? 

Yes…  

The Three Cities is only 15 minutes away with a ride share service like eCabs, and from there a quick ferry ride takes you to Valletta.  Or you can take a ride share all the way to Valletta in about 30 minutes.  The extensive Malta bus system can also get you to either place, or anywhere else on the island too.

But I’m not sure I would recommend it.  If you are going to stay in Marsaskala Malta, focus on all the great things that Marsaskala has to offer, even if it’s just for a few days. 

Then stay somewhere more central to see the rest of Malta.  We spent the first part of our trip in The Three Cities, and loved it there too.  

You can click here to read all about why we loved Senglea and The Three Cities of Malta so much. 

And click here for more general insight into Malta with my Thorough Guide to Traveling in Malta or to read my post about a great place to stay near the Malta airport – Talbot and Bons.

4 Comments

  • Peggy

    I’m glad your boating adventure was successful, that coastline was beautfiul! Looks like you two had a great, relaxing time. Those foggy morning pics are incredible! I’m so glad you retired so that you could bring us more adventures, haha.

  • Erin Taylor

    I loved the photos of the fog. May I ask what camera you are using?
    This is a terrific look into this more remote area of Malta!

    • thethoroughtripper

      Thanks Erin! Just an iPhone 13 Pro. I don’t like carrying around camera equipment, when I have a decent camera in my pocket.

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