Photos by fptower.org
The Frying Pan Tower
The lighthouse was constructed in 1964 to protect seafarers. The tower was to warn and prevent ships from crashing into the shallow rocks of the Frying Pan Shoals off the coast of Bald Head Island.
In 1992, the advancement in technology, namely GPS and radar, rendered the US Coast Guard Light Station purposeless. In 2010, Richard Neil from Oklahoma decided to buy the old lighthouse to turn it into a place to stay.
The Frying Pan Tower evolved into more than just a safety guard for ships. It is now a unique resort to add to your list of places to visit before you die, especially if you are into extreme adventures.
It's also environmental research, an education studies station, and a shelter for marine wildlife. The Frying Pan Tower proved invaluable for the scientific crowd, as there is no other option to stay safe in this part of the world and be protected from treacherous weather except for this building.
Frying Pan Shoals
Frying Pan Tower's original purpose was to keep mariners safe from the risk the shoals posed for them.
The shoals are over 28 miles (45km) long and shaped like a frying pan - hence the naming. While they create a lucrative place for fishermen (fish gets trapped in a high density), in just 14 years, researchers found 130 new shipwrecks in the area.
But some estimate the number of shipwrecks to be in the thousands. Discovering and mapping new sunken boats is still an ongoing process today, with the help of Frying Pan Towel's research center.
Making the Frying Pan Shoals region part of the Graveyard of the Atlantic - a nickname for the dangerous waters off the coast of North Carolina.
The Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower - Oil Rig or Lighthouse?
Looking at the Frying Pan Tower, one has to wonder why it doesn't look anything like a traditional lighthouse. The answer lies in its location. Normally lighthouses are built on solid ground, either on the hills or cliffs off the coast or on rocks in the water.
But Frying Pan had to be constructed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. So, the designers took inspiration from the four-legged "Texas Tower", a steel oil drilling platform.
The tower was built with only a 50-year life span, and initially, plans prescribed its demolition when time was over. It would have been thrown into the ocean to create a natural barrier reef area. However, local fishermen protested the destruction of the iconic building, and eventually, it was saved.
Unlike the Frying Pan Tower's structure, the proudly waving flags on top of it have a much smaller life expectancy. They have to be replaced every month as hurricanes and heavy storms tear them apart. What's left of the flags are auctioned off as souvenirs, and the money goes to charities.
Frying Pan Tower offers no luxury. In fact, it's the total opposite. A bare metal structure sticking out of the open sea is one of the most unusual hotels in the world. This is not the type of hotel where you will be met with a red carpet at check-in.
The hoist can pull up packages or a person in under a minute. Or lower you for a scuba dive session in the reefs.
You must either get a lift by helicopter or use a boat to get here. In return, the unique accommodation offers a mighty ocean view and magnificent sunrises.
The old lighthouse is a safe bet for those looking for a unique and unforgettable hotel experience. However, it may be worth adding a "few bucks" for a helicopter transfer if you are bothered by seasickness.
There are double-decker stainless grating walkways all around the tower.
Inside the Frying Pan Hotel
The 5,000 square feet (465 square meters) of living space in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean may not sound like the best starting point for a vacation, but according to Richard Neil, The Frying Pan has a fair bit to offer for its guests.
There is a fully equipped stainless steel kitchen, and as guests, you can prepare meals from the lighthouse's pantry or book the hotel's chef.
The communal space screams good old American home styling, with Stars and Stripes flags and lots of nautical equipment scattered around.
The list of fun activities is endless. You can go on epic fishing from the tower, shoot biodegradable clay pigeons, play golf with biodegradable balls (made of fish snacks!), play pool, or watch a movie.
Frying Pan Tower can accommodate sixteen overnight guests in small but practical rooms.
The highlight is, of course, the snorkeling and scuba diving in the protected reef below. And how about sunbathing on top of this epic structure or relaxing in a hammock after having a swim with the sharks?
From various places around the Frying Pan Tower, you will have a mesmerizing view of the -sometimes- fierce waves and the colorful sunsets. There is nothing to spoil this view, as you are literally in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Frying Pan Tower is a historic landmark transformed into an ecotourism hotspot where thrill-seekers, ocean lovers, and sunset admirers will all find what they are looking for.
According to its owner, "The tower has proven to withstand major hurricanes. It has super fast internet, hot and cold water that can store electricity from solar and wind energy, and plenty of backup generators.
The place has several communication options, a helicopter platform, and security cameras. In addition, the place is very private and safe."
The underwater shark camera shows live footage of the predators, so you know the best time for a dip.