Frying Pan Shoals Light Station
An offshore escape near Southport, North Carolina
WHEN TO GO: Richard Neal’s former Coast Guard station turned offshore bed-and- breakfast is a sturdy old rig that has survived hurricanes Hugo, Felix, Irene, and Sandy, but plan your visit for earlier in the summer, just to be on the safe side.
WHAT TO EXPECT: In May 2010, Neal, a software engineer from Charlotte who doesn’t even own a boat, learned that the U.S. government was auctioning off a massive light and weather station. On a lark, he put in a bid of $11,262; a few rounds of negotiations later, he was the proud owner of the 1964-built platform. After more than a year of rehab, Neal’s tower is now open for business, with room for up to fourteen guests. Amenities include 5,000 square feet of Wi-Fi- and HDTV-equipped living space, with kitchens, office space, fully equipped bathrooms (with piping hot showers), and spectacular 360-degree views. There’s also a skeet range, a Brunswick pool table original to the station, and a driving range stocked with ocean-friendly biodegradable golf balls.
TYPICAL DAY: If relaxing on the deck is too low-impact, try fishing or diving—or both. The gin-clear, Gulf Stream–warmed water teems with tornadic schools of baitfish (which happen to love hanging beneath the tower). “The fishing is just insane out there,” Neal says. “Mahi and grouper especially. Last summer, some free divers taught me their breath-holding techniques. I made it to the bottom on the first day. I watched a loggerhead turtle and found the ocean floor was just littered with crabs and lobsters. That night, the guys all came up for a feast. So if you come, don’t forget to bring butter.”
GETTING THERE: Anchored thirty-two miles off the coast of Cape Fear, the tower isn’t reachable by land. For $300 per person, you can take your own boat for a Friday through Sunday stay. For $200 more, Neal will charter a boat for you. An additional $1,275, though, will whisk a minimum of two passengers out by helicopter. fptower.com