Florida Man takes an alligator into a liquor store. Florida Man shoots gun at hurricane. Florida Man kidnaps scientist to make his dog immortal. Florida Man tries to force KFC employee to reopen restaurant at gunpoint…If you’re not familiar with the real-life tragi-comedy that is “Florida Man,” you need to spend some time on Google and Twitter. To sum it up: any headline that begins with “Florida Man” is guaranteed to be weird AF. And the “Florida Man” phenomenon belies that fact that the Sunshine State is often the butt of the joke.

I’ve certainly issued my fair share of disparaging comments about Florida over the years, but I’m here to say that I’ve had it all wrong about Florida. This place is downright magical. I’ve spent the last few days camping on a finger of sand and bugs sticking out into the Gulf of Mexico with my family and I’ve been blown away with how wild and pristine the area is. Most of my past experience with Florida has been centered around cultural standouts like Panama City and Jacksonville and I honestly had no idea there was anything to this state other than wet t-shirt contests and sub-par professional football, but let me tell you, Florida is awesome.

We spent three nights camping on Cape San Blas, which has nine miles of undeveloped beach, and spent our days paddling the warm Gulf waters and hiking around massive dunes. And we pretty much had the whole cape to ourselves. Sure, the bugs were horrendous and the alligator warnings were ubiquitous, but I like not being the apex predator in the general vicinity. It gives the whole endeavor a Jurassic Park sort of vibe and really provides perspective on your life.

After conquering the coast, we headed inland to explore the state’s natural springs. Yeah, thousands of gallons of cold, fresh water bubbles up from limestone caves creating serene pools and rivers. This is real Ponce de Leon kind of stuff, and they’re everywhere throughout the middle of the state. These pools are refreshing as hell (in case you didn’t know, Florida is f-ing hot) with incredible snorkeling, and again, thanks to the lush foliage and alligator warnings, the springs have a legit jungle vibe. Also, they tend to sprout rare inner-tube trees.

I know I’ve barely dipped my toe in the primal adventure that Florida offers (I’m lobbying to change the nickname to “The Jurassic State,”) but my interest is piqued. I really hope the melting ice caps don’t drown this Peninsula because I want to see more.