The Magician's Apprentice:

A Martinique Beach Adventure

2 hr 0.5 km return Easy

Trail Info:

This adventure traverses a small section of a sandy beach on the Atlantic Ocean. A larger beach to the left extends about 4 km. There are washrooms, picnic tables, charcoal pits and boardwalks. The beach has supervised swimming. It is best to go at low tide as this is the best time for exploring the tide pools, so check the tide charts. The salt marsh behind the beach is a haven for bird life. Late July to September is the best time to see the greatest diversity of birds.


Martinique Beach Trailhead
View in Google Maps

From Dartmouth, drive about 40 km on highway 107 to Musquodoboit Harbour. At the end of the highway, turn right towards Musquodoboit Harbour. In town turn right towards East Petpeswick after the convenience store and library on the right. After about 12 km, turn left into Martinique Beach Provincial Park, just before the road ends. Park in the first lot on the right and start on the wooden boardwalk.

Trail Tools

  • Rainbow chips (instructions)
  • Hat for a magician (optional) (instructions)
  • Sand shovel or spoon
  • Cauldron (4-litre ice cream container)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Sand bucket (or 1-litre plastic container)
  • Adventure Journal

Apprentice Needed!

Stand on the boardwalk in the parking lot and face the dune.

A powerful magician lives at Martinique Beach. She works magic on sand and surf, bringing life to the beach. Become the magician’s apprentice and find the signs of magic here. You’ll discover her cauldrons and make one of your own. Search out the ingredients for her special potion and mix them in your cauldron. Once it is made, the magician’s identity will be revealed. Put on your hat (real or imaginary) and begin!

1. Find the Force

Walk the boardwalk to the highest point on the dune.

The magician brings you the scent and sound of the ocean. Can you smell it? Do you hear it? The magician creates an invisible giant hand that sweeps over the dune grass. Watch the grass move under the hand’s spell. Move your bodies like the grass.

Do You Know – Beach Grass

Beach grass is one of the most sensitive kinds of plant life along the shore. It anchors large mounds of sand, which protect areas like the salt marsh behind these dunes. If the beach grass were trampled and destroyed, the sand would be carried away by wind and waves and the ocean would flood the marsh. Many creatures, such as sandpipers and piping plovers, depend upon the shallow waters and mud flats of the marsh for food.

2. Discover the Magician’s Creatures

Walk to the end of the boardwalk where it meets the sandy beach.

The magician keeps wild creatures on the beach–some only leave clues behind. Look for a small, two-legged beast running at the water’s edge. It’s a little bird called a sanderling and runs in a group. They search for food in the sand after a wave has washed away. They look funny as they run to and from the water. Run as fast as you can to the water’s edge and stick your toes in. Can you do the sanderling scuttle?

  1. Fold your arms back like wings and stick out your head.
  2. Lean forward and stick out your bottom.
  3. Scuttle by running with tiny steps.
  4. Chase waves out and race them back into shore.

Do You Know – Shorebirds

Sanderlings migrate south and stop in Nova Scotia to fatten up for their long journey. Another bird living on regional beaches is the endangered piping plover. It is endangered largely because its nesting sites on the sand are disturbed or destroyed by dogs and people. Conservation efforts to fence off nesting sites on some beaches in recent years are helping, but there has been an increase in human usage of beaches that were previously very quiet. Piping plovers feed in salt marshes. Learn more about the piping plover and other species at risk in Nova Scotia here.

What are the sandpipers eating when they peck at the sand? Here’s how to find out:

  1. Scoop up some sand in your bucket where a wave has just washed away.
  2. Be fast and scoop down deep.
  3. Turn your cauldron upside down and use your shovel to place some on it.
  4. Examine the sand carefully for sandpiper food. What is there?

Now look for clues of other beach creatures:

  • footprints
  • shells
  • seaweed
  • feathers

Place a handful of sand in your cauldron and say “Shazam!”

Earth Steps

Here’s how you can tread more lightly on beaches and dunes:

  • Only walk on open sandy areas or where there are clear paths or boardwalks.
  • Avoid dunes and other areas with fragile plant life.
  • Never drive vehicles of any kind on beaches or dunes.

3. Sense the Power

Stay on the beach.

The magician can move entire mounds of earth. Make a sandcastle to show how it works:

  1. Use your bucket to make a sandcastle with wet sand.
  2. Make drip roofs by taking handfuls of really wet sand and squeezing it in drops over the top of the castle.
  3. When you’re finished, slowly pour a bucket of water over your castle. What happens?

Now check out the power of the ocean:

  1. Fill your bucket with sand and pack it down.
  2. Run out and place it upside down in a spot where a wave has just washed away.
  3. Take the bucket off the sand before another wave hits… Kabam!

Some say that the seventh wave is the strongest. After a large wave, count waves to see if this is true.

Now walk up to the dunes covered in grass (do not walk on the dunes). Look carefully to see why this sand is not carried away like the mound you made. What keeps it in place?


The beach is always being altered. Sand is shifted around daily by wind, water and tides. The seasons alter it with bigger shifts in temperature, weather and winds. Entire beaches can be built or washed away in a few years. In fact, all landforms are altered (over much longer time periods and on a much larger scale). Entire mountains are worn down over thousands of years by water and wind. This process is called erosion and like the many transformations happening on a beach, it demonstrates

Learn about the Earthworks

4. Make Magic

Walk along the edge of the dunes to the east away from the houses (remember not to walk on the dunes). Stop before the large white rocks and the rocky point at the cobble beach that lies between the sandy beach and the rocky point.

Search the cobbles for magical shapes and colours:

  1. Collect four different kinds of shells.
  2. Notice the colour of the shells while they dry.
  3. Place some seawater in your cauldron and say “Mixle Lixle!”
  4. Now dip them into the water and see what happens.

Try dipping three kinds of seaweed in the cauldron. They change their feel as well as their colour.

Subtle changes are at work here too. Pick up a rounded stone. How did it get so round? Place a small round stone in your cauldron and say “Presto Change-o!”


Sweetgrass is a wetland plant that is often found in wet meadows, near rivers, lake edges, salt marshes and the coast. In Mi’kmaw culture, sweetgrass is a sacred medicine of the East direction and is used for ceremonies such as the smudge. It produces a sweet-scented smoke when it is burned. It is important to be mindful of your thoughts and intentions when harvesting sweetgrass. First you offer some tobacco to the Creator by spreading it on the ground where you wish to harvest it. You should also be mindful of your thoughts and intentions when burning the sweetgrass. Sweetgrass is often available in braids and is thought of as the hair of Mother Earth with three strands for the body, mind and soul.

Learn about Netukulimk

5. Meet the Enchanted Guards

Go to the gravel beach on the left past the cobbles, near the water’s edge just before the start of the rocky point.

The Enchanted Guards were frozen as shapes in the lines of rock here long ago. They protect the magician’s cauldrons on the rocky point. If you recognize them and call them by name, they will let you pass. How many faces and body shapes can you find frozen here? Look for dinosaurs, animals and magical beasts. No one has greeted them for a long time. Pat them on their heads as you pass to the point.

6. Discover the Magician’s Cauldron

Go past the enchanted rock guards to the tide pools on the rocky point.

The magician’s cauldrons are shallow pools of water found among the rocks. Some folks call them tide pools. Look into the cauldrons scattered across the rocks and discover the hidden life brewing inside. Get into the cauldron viewing position:

  1. Carefully kneel or crouch down very close to the edge of the pool.
  2. Don’t step in as you’ll hurt the creatures beneath your feet.
  3. Explore with your eyes and your hands.
  4. Gently push aside the seaweed to check beneath.
  5. Peek into crevices between rocks.
  6. Check under rocks (be sure to replace them).

Can you find these creatures:

  • colourful rooted life forms dancing in the water (seaweed)
  • many-legged creatures (crabs)
  • wandering star beasts (starfish)
  • blue, hinged, water rocks (mussels)
  • spiral critters (periwinkles and whelks)
  • swimming beasties (tiny fish)

Find the mystical creature lurking in a shallow pool with a sandy bottom. Look for tracks in the sand, as if something has been dragged along the bottom. What creature is making them?

The great magician has also created a tiny creature that survives the biggest storm waves. Look for something that has a trap door on top and is:

  • attached to rocks
  • about the size of a large pebble
  • white or gray and shaped like a mini volcano

When it is covered by water, the trap door opens allowing the creature – a barnacle – to feed on tiny bits of food. Find one with its trap door open. Can you see the creature inside?

Find an empty shell and place it in your cauldron and say “Abracadabra!”

7. Reveal the Rainbow

Stay here.

An important skill for a magician’s apprentice is being able to discover the rainbow of colours in the cauldrons! Can you find it?

  1. Give a couple of rainbow chips to each person.
  2. Search the cauldrons for your colours.
  3. Collect a very small sample of your colours from the cauldrons.
  4. Be very careful with any living thing you find.

When everyone has their colour samples, lay them out on a rock, arranged in an arch. This is the magician’s rainbow! After a good look, return everything to its home.

Place a piece of dead seaweed in your cauldron and say “Kalamazoo!”

Before you leave the magician’s cauldrons, take a picture of your favourite one or do a sketch of it in your Adventure Journal. When you get home, do a full colour picture of the cauldron in your journal.

Walk along the main beach to the left and explore the 4 km of sand and water. At home, read up about beaches, the geology of the shoreline and sea life. Adults can enjoy The Living Beach by Nova Scotian author Silver Donald Cameron (Toronto: Macmillan Canada, 1998). Those with a naturalist bent should try The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998) for magnificent poetic descriptions of the small creatures that live at the shoreline.

8. Find the Magical White Rocks

Go back onto the sandy beach and look behind the beach and dunes for an outcropping of large white rocks to the left of the picnic shelter. Find the path to the rocks.

Here’s a challenge only experienced apprentices can do. Lick your lips and try to identify a taste. It is the essence of the magician’s potions. She invisibly placed it on your lips.

Look at the trees surrounding the white rocks. Do you notice anything special about them? The magician has also worked her magic to shape them.

This mound of white rock holds magical powers. Could it be an ancient frozen beast? Place a tiny piece of the white rock in your cauldron and say “Shazaam!”


Quartz such as this rock was used for arrowheads by the Mi’kmaq. They used a range of volcanic rocks to make tools, most frequently basalts and rhyolites. Tools made from these rocks are still being found today in many ancestral sites across Nova Scotia.

9. Meet the Magician

Remain on the white rocks.

Your cauldron now includes all of the key ingredients for the special potion. Here’s how to use it to meet the magician:

  1. Stand with your back to the water.
  2. Hold your cauldron and close your eyes.
  3. Wet your fingers with the potion and flick them at your forehead.
  4. Say these magic words:

“Alacazam, Alacazoo!

Magician May I Meet You!”

Turn around and look from the sand on the beach to the horizon and you will see the magician.

Who is it?

Take a moment to marvel at it (and take a picture if you want). Return the potion to the magician: go to the edge of the water and dump out your cauldron.

There is a hidden plaque nearby with a special symbol of the magician on it. Hint: Look on something you sit on near the white rocks. Use your pencil or crayon to make a rubbing of it in your Adventure Journal.

The plaque symbol is:



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Congratulations! You have successfully completed your apprenticeship and have discovered the identity of the Magician of Martinique. Before you go, you may want to build a sandcastle fit for a magician on the sandy beach.

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