The islands of Malta and Gozo are brilliant for a family holiday, packed with fun places to visit whatever your children’s ages. The islands’ small size means everywhere is within easy reach. In the space of a day you could fire a cannon at a fort and later relax at the beach, or visit a film-set theme park and then take a dip in a lagoon.
Sandy beaches and swimming spots
One of Malta’s best beaches for families is soft-sanded, sheltered Golden Bay. Older children can try activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, sailing or windsurfing, while the gentle slope of the beach makes it easy for younger kids to safely paddle in the sea. The whole family can go boating around the craggy, cave-pocked local coast from here too. Neighbouring soft-sanded Għajn Tuffieħa Bay is also good for families, though slightly wilder and less accessible, as the approach is down more than 100 steps.
Malta’s many rocky bays, such as Għar Lapsi and St Peter’s Pool, are better for older children, provided they can swim, as they have deeper waters. St Peter’s Pool in particular is a great teenager hangout, perfect for showing off by leaping off the rocks into the refreshing sea, and evening barbecues. The resort of Sliema also has a long rocky beach, suitable for older kids, but with shallower pools that work for younger children.
The most family-friendly sandy beaches on Gozo are the copper-red sanded Ramla Bay and dramatically pretty San Blas Bay. Rockier bays such as Wied il-Għasri and Mġarr ix-Xini are photogenic, hidden-feeling coves that are also good for swimming and snorkelling. Dwejra, on Gozo, is another wonderful spot for kids of any age, with fantastic rock formations for clambering around, and access to the Inland Sea, a sheltered sea lake that’s great for swimming and boat trips.
The trip to the small, almost-deserted island of Comino is great for all the family, starting with a fun boat trip, usually stopping to explore coastal caves, followed by plenty of time to explore the island and swim in the Blue Lagoon.
Bringing history to life
There are a bunch of thrilling museums and sites to visit with kids in Malta. Among the best is the recently rebooted National War Museum housed in Fort St Elmo on the tip of Valletta’s peninsula, which has engaging animated displays that bring the island’s long and dramatic history to life. Various audio-visual exhibits around Valletta use special effects to immerse visitors in the islands’ exciting history, such as Malta 5D where history comes complete with smells and moving seats.
At Fort Rinella, just outside Valletta, you can watch historic re-enactments and even get to fire a gun or a cannon. In the small city of Vittoriosa, just across the Grand Harbour from Valletta, the prison cells in the Inquisitor’s Palace have some intricate graffiti on the walls inscribed by bored prisoners, and Fort St Angelo has been restored, with hands-on interpretative exhibits. In Mellieħa, to the northwest, there are fascinating Air-Raid Shelters to explore, tunnels dug by hand to shelter the town's population from WWII bombs.
The prehistoric temples at Haġar Qim in southeast Malta have a breathtaking setting that is ripe for exploration, with some coastal trails, and the visitor centre offers the opportunity to try carving different types of stone, as well as a 3D audiovisual introduction. Nearby, the prehistoric Għar Dalam Cave is deep and mysterious, full of stalagmites and stalactites.
Theme parks and watersports
The film set for the 1980s film Popeye has been turned into fun theme park Popeye Village, where you can take a boat ride, and make and star in your own short movie. A perennial favourite for kids is the Splash & Fun water park, with flumes making for a fun day out in the summer sun, whilst the smaller free Buġibba Water Park is best for children under the age of 12. Built in the shape of a starfish, the Malta National Aquarium, just outside Buġibba, has huge tanks of mesmerising fish.
All of Malta's main resorts offer watersports such as sailing, kayaking and windsurfing, and the islands are an ideal place to learn to dive. All the local dive schools offer taster ‘bubblemaker’ programs for kids aged 8 to 10 and over, offering the chance to find out what it’s like to breathe underwater.
Children are welcome at most restaurants, though more upmarket places often only accept older kids. There are often kids’ menus that tend to offer nuggets, pizza, etc, but you can always ask for a half portion of a starter dish (portions are huge in Maltese restaurants). With a wide range of cuisines on offer, children are bound to find something they’ll like. Maltese food is strongly influenced by Italian cuisine, so there’s pizza and pasta galore, and some kids will love the national dish – fried rabbit or rabbit stew.
There are masses of self-catering options around the islands, as well as child-friendly hotels with facilities such as pools, beach access and beach clubs. Try to schedule at least a few days on Gozo as there are lots of self-catering farmhouses with pools to rent and it’s even easier to get around than Malta. Smaller boutique hotels in Valletta usually only accept older children.
Transport and other tips
The easiest way to get around Malta and Gozo is to drive, but the local bus service is reliable, easy to use, and fairly inexpensive. Buses are frequent between major towns, but only roughly hourly to and from smaller places. Ferries run between Malta and Gozo, and you can take tourist boats over to Comino.
A lightweight stroller is useful in Malta, and you’ll find baby change facilities and high chairs in many places. Baby supplies are widely available, and local medical facilities are highly efficient.