Have No Fear

The term ‘B&B’ often suggests charming accommodation in a sweetly renovated clapboard house in a bucolic setting (hey, is that Bob Newhart in the doorway?). But it isn’t always the case and if you’re looking for a more rugged and adventurous getaway, then you’ll want to try Frying Pan Tower located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Standing sturdy 85 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, Frying Pan Tower looks like a rusty oil rig. When this decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard light station went on the government auction block in 2010, Richard Neal (a software engineer who calls himself a “land lover”)  was shocked to find he was the successful bidder of this well-known nautical landmark. Today, Neal spends his weekends at Frying Pan Tower restoring the former lighthouse and operating it as a weekend B&B for diving, deep-sea fishing and ocean lovers alike. Outfitted with furnishings original to the days when the Coast Guard manned the tower in the 60s and 70s, there are eight twin-bedded rooms (each with an ocean view, of course), a shared bathroom, a stainless steel kitchen and lounge area equipped with a pool table, Wi-Fi and HD-TV.

Activities include diving the crystal clear, 50-foot deep waters around the tower—home to schools of baitfish, sharks and barracuda. If keeping dry is more appealing, boat charters are available for half or full-day deep-sea fishing excursions. Moments after dropping a baited hook in the water, mahi-mahi, sea bass and grouper galore are there for a nibble. Back on the Tower, the 80’ x 80’ helicopter pad makes an unusual deck for lounging in the sun, driving bio-degradable golf balls, skeet shooting and stargazing. While basic meals are provided, bringing your own food and beverage is highly recommended. Don’t forget to add butter and breadcrumbs to the grocery list to fry up the freshly caught fish.

There are two options for getting to and from Frying Pan Tower—a two-hour boat charter from Southport or a 20-minute helicopter charter from Cape Fear. If you choose to arrive and depart by boat, guests are currently buckled into a diaper like carrier and hoisted 80 feet up from the boat to the tower. This is because the spiral staircase once used to access the tower from sea level was partially torn off in Hurricane Irene. Ouch. While Frying Pan Tower is open for business as a bed and breakfast year round (even during hurricane season!), it is indeed very rustic. As in, it’s largely covered in rust. The restoration efforts are still very much a work in progress and will be for some time considering all work is being done thanks to generous volunteers and in-kind donations.

Sarah Dumbrille, lives about 85 feet off the ground in Manhattan. She’s based between Canada and NYC and works as a communications consultant. A long-time friend and collaborator, we’re always curious to see how and where she decides to spend her holidays. It’s never boring. 

Standing sturdy 85 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, Frying Pan Tower looks like a rusty oil rig.

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