Frying Pan Tower – Southport, North Carolina - Atlas Obscura
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Southport, North Carolina

Frying Pan Tower

This abandoned lighthouse looks like a rusting oil rig but is actually an adventurous bed and breakfast. 

Built to replace a permanently-manned “lightship” on the edge of the treacherous “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” Frying Pan Tower was a unique lighthouse that was built like an oil rig before being left to rust in the middle of the ocean. However, today it operates as a boutique rooming destination for people on an adventurous holiday.

Completed in the 1960s, the light station was installed 32 miles off the coast of North Carolina using a four-legged base that once belonged to an oil drilling platform. The station replaced a boat that had been stationed in the spot for more than one hundred years, warning ships of the dangerous shoals hidden just a few dozen feet beneath the surface.

The new tower was built with two floors, a broad surface helipad, and the actual light tower on top. Originally manned by full crews of Coast Guard operators, the station was eventually fully automated before becoming fully obsolete and being abandoned in 2004.

Once the rusting platform was left to be devoured by the sea, a number of plans for its future were put forth, ranging from demolishing the structure to create an artificial reef to giving it over to a diving company. In the end, it was purchased by an independent buyer who did the unexpected. Instead of attempting to destroy the unique rig, the new owner, with the help of volunteers, set to restoring the tower as a one-of-a-kind sea stop.

Since being purchased in 2010, the tower has been significantly refurbished and inspected, and today it operates as a sort of water-locked bed and breakfast. The tower is far from a bucolic New England townhouse, but what it lacks in warm atmosphere it makes up for in rusty oceanic solitude.       

Know Before You Go

Visits are available by boat or helicopter service with the hotel's volunteers or by special request.