While Mellieha Bay is known primarily for its gorgeous beach – undoubtedly the number one attraction in this coastal town – the resort has much more to offer. They come in the ways of historic architecture and watersports, both along the waterfront and into the hillside beyond. There's even a family-friendly film set turned theme park that a few comic enthusiasts might recognise.
As an island that's changed ruling hands a number of times over its thousands of years of history, Malta has a vast array of historical sites whose designs vary hugely. Mellieha Bay is rife with old world buildings detailing its history, where you can get a glimpse of Maltese life back in the day.
The Mellieha Air Raid Shelter is a network of underground tunnels and caves used in World War II. Another site worth pausing into is the Parish Church of Mellieha, whose reddish-orange facade overlooks the water and aptly gives the appearance of an oversized sandcastle. Finally there's St Agatha's Tower, a 17th-century, sea-facing fortress whose rusty colour makes it unmissable on Mellieha's skyline.
For an island, Malta has a surprisingly low number of beaches. But if you're visiting Mellieha Bay, you're in luck, as some of Malta's finest beaches can be found along this northern coastline.
The top beach is the 800-metre-long stretch known as Mellieha Bay – or Ghadira, to the locals – as it's the longest sandy beach on the island. Golden Bay is a little further off, about a 20-minute drive away. Along with Ghadira however, this beach is Blue Flag certified and well worth the journey. For more secluded afternoons, there's Armier Bay Beach, frequented mostly by locals but open to all.
The Popeye Village was constructed from scratch in Malta's Anchor Bay in 1979 for the filming of the live action musical of the popular Popeye cartoon, starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. Today, it's a family-friendly destination complete with the same colourful shanty-like beach huts and cartoon props you'll see in the film.
Activities here range from acting in your very own version of Popeye, embarking on a boat ride or sitting in on live shows. There are restaurants and shops, wineries and museums to explore. Popeye Village especially comes to life around the holidays, with Santa at Christmas, rabbits at Easter and carnival festivities come early spring.
While Malta's beachy reputation might not precede it, Mellieha Bay's watersport scene is very much alive and kicking. Across the various beaches, you'll find everything from snorkelling to scuba diving trips, paddle-boarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing and kayaking. You can even charter a boat for a private tour of the coastline.
Located roughly a 45-minute drive from Mellieha Bay, Valletta is Malta's capital city. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprised mostly of Baroque buildings whose origins date back to the 16th century. Valletta was hard hit during World War II, but has since remained a major destination for holidaymakers, and in 2018 will be the European Capital of Culture. As the island's capital, Valletta is understandably the hotspot for those after some culture during Malta holidays, packed with museums, grand churches and shopping opportunities.
Found up in the hillside from Mellieha Bay, the Ghadira Nature Reserve is a quiet little spot to escape the noise of the beach on your cheap Malta holidays. It won't take hours to explore, but can provide fodder for a leisurely afternoon walk. The reserve is rife with native flora and fauna and, depending on what time of year you visit, can be a great place for birdwatching.