My Holidays in Malta, Mellieha and St Paul’s Island

Mellieha Malta

As I have said I have been to Malta several times and always to the town of Mellieha on the north coast close to the ferry port with a crossing to neighbouring Gozo.

I think I recollect correctly that on each of these visits I have visited the town but have always been drawn to the top of a steep hill where the Church stands close by to the main square and a ribbon of traditional shops and restaurants.

This is what Mellieha looked like when I first visited in 1997 but it is a lot more built up now.  The Mellieha Bay Hotel can be made out on the far side of the bay…

Mellieha 1991

I thought it was time for a change so this time after I had walked around the waterfront and the and the sandy beach and as I reached the fork in the road that led up to the town I turned left instead of carrying on and walked along the rocky southern shoreline of Mellieha Bay.

I followed signposts to a small museum housed in an old watch tower right on the edge of the harbour.  Apparently it is a museum about tuna fishing and I am certain that I would have found that interesting but it was closed for renovation.  Apparently the three hundred year old tower is collapsing under the weight of tons of concrete poured onto the roof during the Second World War when it was part of the Island’s defence network.

So I carried on walking.

Mellieha Weekend Homes

The further away that I wandered from the beach and the harbour area there was not much to see, no shops, no bars then a private road with a gate and some holiday flats beyond so I had to turn back and then some interesting weekend homes.

Interesting because rather like railway arches in big UK cities they were built under an elevated section of the road,.  Many were boarded up and barricaded with hefty padlocks but in some the shutters were open, children were playing, there was a smell of Mediterranean cooking and damp laundry was drying in the gentle breeze.  It seems that these are weekend retreats for people from Valletta who drive down here on a Saturday, open the doors, give their washing a good blow in the breeze and enjoy a few hours out of the busy city.

I had walked about four miles or so by now and I was coming to the end of the urban development, the asphalt road became unpaved track and thereafter a dusty footpath that kept going to the end of the peninsular and I carried on because at the end of the mainland there was something I wanted to see – St Paul’s Island.


Saint Paul is the Patron Saint of Malta because in 60 AD he was shipwrecked on the island, an incident which is recorded in some detail in the Acts of the Apostles.  Paul was on his way back to Rome to stand trial but a great storm sank the ship close to Malta and Paul and everyone else on board took refuge on a crop of rock and all were saved.  Today there is a statue of him there to commemorate the event.

Malta is the most religious country in Europe…

…it has more religious public holidays than any other in Europe and 10th February is especially important because this is the The Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck which was bad luck for Paul but good fortune for Malta because it brought Paul to the island in the year 60AD and whilst there he went promptly about converting the island to Christianity.

But my story of St Paul’s Island does not end here and I give you my word that I am honestly not making this up but in 1997 I too suffered the same fate.  Taking a speed boat ride with Tony Oki Koki ‘Mr Crazy’ Banis the boat broke down and we were stranded on the very same rock in a storm for twenty minutes or so until thankfully rescued and transferred safely to Bugibba.

saint-paul-shipwreckMalta waves

Here the similarity in stories ends.  Paul is attributed with writing fourteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament but all I have is a simple travel blog.

My nostalgic curiosity satisfied I turned around now and headed back the way that I come, back towards Mellieha.

For the record there are three more St Paul’s Islands that I can find, one in the Bering Sea (Alaska) another in Nova Scotia and a third in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands and I am fairly certain that Paul wasn’t shipwrecked on any of these.

feast-of-st-pauls-shipwreckSt Paul's Grotto

Other Saint Stories…

Saint James and Santiago de Compostella

Saint Patrick and Ireland

Saint Spiridon and Corfu

Saint Janurius and the Miracle of threBlood


44 responses to “My Holidays in Malta, Mellieha and St Paul’s Island

  1. It seems like bad things often befall saints, so I’m glad that Saint Paul (and you, too!) were rescued.


  2. I lived there for eight months and these photos bring back fond memories.
    Thank you for sharing


  3. Malta is on my list. Thanks.


  4. You certainly get your money’s worth from Malta Andrew! I liked your boat misadventure story and those holiday homes sound much better than beach huts in Sidmouth!


  5. I was quite taken with St. Paul´s Island as I remembered the story from Sunday School as a child. We went by it on the tour boat and I was able to get some great pictures. Amazing to read about your earlier boating experience.


  6. \enjoy the commentary and learn something so often


  7. “we were stranded on the very same rock in a storm.” So, my question to you, Andrew, is did you convert anyone? Read and enjoyed your “Mr, Crazy” story! –Curt


  8. I assume when you were stranded,you too, saw the light and became a socialist 😈


  9. Very interesting – you really get the feel of the place and not just the tourist side. Glad you were rescued! 🙂


  10. Pingback: A to Z of Windows – Q is for Qawra in Malta | Have Bag, Will Travel

  11. The big difference between you and Paul is that you don’t write fantasy.

    Nice post.


  12. If we ever get another opportunity, we will definitely stay in Mellieha again. Glad you were rescued from St Paul’s island – that’s quite a story! I should go back and read all of your Malta posts …


  13. Is there any truth in the story that, at the time of his shipwreck, St Paul was travelling with a distant ancestor of Tony Oki Koki ‘Mr Crazy’ Banis ?


  14. What an adventure. I’m not convinced though that Malta is the most religious country on account of its saints’ days. France is an assertively secular country, but it doesn’t stop them nabbing church celebrations as an excuse for yet another Bank Holiday 😉


  15. I hadn’t known about the St Paul connection


  16. I enjoyed reading this again. I make a mention of St. Paul’s Island in my latest book about Amanda’s adventures in Malta.


  17. Malta fascinates me even though I have never been there. I had some Maltese kids in some of my classes years ago and there was a discussion by the class as to which of the Melbourne Soccer Soccer teams people barracked for. At one point I asked one of the Maltese boys if he barracked for George Cross. He said no and why should he. I told him and the rest of the class that George Cross was originally founded in 1947 by a Maltese social club. Then they all wanted to know why a Maltese club would call themselves George Cross. So then I told them about the role played by Malta during the Second World War and how the Whole Island of Malta and all the people were awarded the George Cross which is equal to the Victoria Cross. The George cross is awarded for acts of the greatest heroism or for most conspicuous courage in circumstance of extreme danger not in the presence of the enemy.
    And I have often wondered how often people forget some really important pieces of the own history.
    Anyway, that’s partly why I like your posts, because you often tell us so much about the history of the places you visit.


  18. Malta is a fascinating island, rich in history, though if I ever visit again I’d stay in Valetta itself. Not been to this part other than en route to Gozo. But I did once stay in a dreadful hotel not too far away in Buġibba.


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