Marsalforn Bay is a resort-type small town that’s a complete package as far as holiday-makers are concerned. It was once a tiny fishing village – about two dozen fishermen still use the harbour as a docking base for their boats – with a smallish church, but now it spreads around the large open bay. It boasts the largest concentration of restaurants and cafes and bars in Gozo, and on summer evenings the promenade fills up with pedestrians spending the evenings by the sea – dining or drinking, or simply strolling along the promenade that skirts the shore.
The bay has various swimming spots which range from a sandy beach in the inner mouth of the bay to the rocky foreshore along the western flank of the bay where you can dive in – or ease into the water down ladders fixed to the shore for swimmers. Yet better swimming can be had in the outer parts of the bay, particularly at the scenic Ghar Qawqla, which is plateau of rock by the sea backed by dramatic clayey slopes – a section of Ghar Qawqla forms a natural pool of shallow water, and sun loungers and umbrellas are available for rent (Ghar Qawqla is a walkable 600 metres away from Murella Living).
In the other direction, only a kilometre away along the road that skirts the coast, there is another called Qbajjar, a smaller and quieter and more natural alternative to Marsalforn bay proper. It has a small pebbly beach hemmed in on either side by rocky plateaus abutting the sea; Qbajjar offers more good swimming, as well as excellent snorkeling – the seabed is covered by posidonia, a type of seagrass that’s protected because it’s a prime spawning habitat for fishes in the central Mediterranean. Good snorkeling can also be had just around the peninsula from Qbajjar to the west, at Xwejni Bay (situated 400 metres further west from Qbajjar).
West of Xwejni there are the famous salt pans – depressions pickaxed into the plateau, and used to harvest natural salt – the salt pans stretch west along the coast for 1.5km, creating abstract or regular patterns. A road stretches along the coast here, set back from the salt pans, and it makes a rewarding walk in the late afternoon when the sun sets down the horizon west of Gozo, creating dazzling corridor of light stretching to the horizon and romantic reflections of warm light on the still water of the salt pans. The salt pans eventually end at Wied Il-Ghasri, a mini-fjord cut into the body of the rocky land, hemmed in by fifty-metre-high cliffs: it’s an excellent spot for swimming and snorkeling (there is a steep flight of stairs that leads down to the pebbly shore at the inner part of the fjord).
This stretch of coast – from Marsalforn to Wied Il-Ghasri – is also the most scenic hike that can be had from Marsalforn, an easy round-trip of 5km that can be done in about 3 hours at a leisurely pace. Yet there are other walks that fan out from Murella Living: another one goes east of the bay, to Ghar Qawqla and beyond, where a path skirts the coast to the small spectacular cove called Ghajn Barrani, where the rocky boulders and hard-packed plateau of light-grey clay create colourful contrasts with the azure sea (the path to Ghajn Barrani is rather rugged, so it’s essential to wear good shoes and take care; the walk there and back is 4km). Other walking possibilities are into the country roads that run inland along two valleys – these are best tackled in the winter when the landscape is green and alive (there are a variety of routes that would be too tedious to describe here in any detail – if interested, ask at the reception).
Facilities are not amiss in Marsalforn. There are two small supermarkets just up the road; an ATM (cashpoint) round the corner; as well as taxis and bus stop, also around the corner.