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Frying Pan Shoals Light

Frying Pan Shoals Light

The Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower is located south of Southport by 39 miles. It is 32 miles from Bald Head Island in North Carolina. The decommissioned lighthouse has survived intense tropical storms. It is privately owned and was previously used as a bed and breakfast retreat.

The tower is modeled after Texas Tower, which was a steel oil drilling platform. It is placed on four steel legs to house several members of the Coast Guard. It is 80 feet high and can mark the shoals where the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean converge.


The first patrol of the shoals happened in 1854. It was patrolled by the United States Coast Guard. The Frying Pan Shoals Tower was constructed in 1966. A four-person crew was placed to man the tower. In 1979, the tower was automated and there was no need for the Coast Guard to be stationed there.

In 2004, the station was decommissioned. This was because GPS systems placed on ships allowed for easier navigation. The station became obsolete. The Coast Guard’s plan was to demolish it and use it as an artificial reef. An online auction was held instead. The winning bid came from Shipwrecks, Inc. in 2009. It is a South Carolinian diving and research firm. They bid $515,000 but failed to make the down payment. The tower was sold to a private individual at $85,000. It was bought by Richard Neal from Charlotte in North Carolina.

When Hurricane Irene hit the area in August 2011, the Frying Pan tower was hit by waves of 28feet and winds at 67 mph. No visible damage occurred to the tower. Time Magazine listed the tower in an article about lighthouses that were restored to bed and breakfast facilities.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit a few miles close to the tower. It was a low-category storm and only lifted a few ceiling tiles. This damage happened because a window was left open in the tower. Hurricane Florence hit in 2018 and the only damage the tower faced was to the flag. The American Flag was flying on the tower and was torn to shreds as the hurricane approached. The flag was recovered after the storm and sold at an auction. It helped raise money for the Wilmington Red Cross. Hurricane Dorian hit the tower in 2019. Pressure at the tower was reported by the eye at 959.5 mb.

Richard Neal divested his ownership interest between 2018 and 2019. He maintained a focus on his role as the Director of FPTower Inc. The federally registered non-profit organization was focused on restoration efforts on the tower. It organizes and restores the tower with the help of donations, volunteers and active promotion. The organization aims at making the tower a resource for research and education. It is maintained as an iconic piece of the history of the American Coast Guard.

Structural Conditions

You can gain access to the Frying Pan Shoals light tower by a boat or helicopter. The Coast Guard contracted a firm to inspect the site in January 2010. The inspection was done by an engineering firm. The firm established that helicopters could land on the helipad platform. The structure needed some repair but was found to be structurally sound. Hurricanes had destroyed the lower stairs to the light tower. The mid to upper section stairs have deteriorated due to exposure to the salt environment.

There are two floors in the tower. The first is a subfloor that is used as a living area. It measures about 5,000 square feet (460 m2). This subfloor has a recreation area, seven bedrooms, an office, a kitchen, a storage area, and toilet facilities.

N.SEA Oyster Company

When visiting the Top Shoals Light Tower, there are other interesting sites in the region to fill your time with. One such place is the N.SEA Oyster Company on Topsail Island.

Topsail sound has blue-green waters that are rich in nutrients for marine life. The waters wash over the farm and go out through the inlet twice a day. This cycle allows the farm to maintain a high salinity and remain healthy for oysters. Lea-Hautaff island is to the south. It is a barrier island that is undeveloped and untouched. Its main role is in sea turtle hatching. The mainland has the pristine Holly Shelter game lands with a savannah of healthy longleaf pine.

Topsail Island is a long thin barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercostal Waterway.  It was named after the method that pirates used to pillage the ships that approached the island. The pirates were experienced sailors and would wait for merchant ships in shallow parts of the sound. When the ships approached, the pirates would hoist their sails and race to plunder the ships. After a while, sailors started looking for the topsails of the pirate boats. Even without the sails, the topsails were just barely visible from afar.


The oysters are cultivated by a combination of French and Australian farming methods. They are mainly grown on a suspended longline that is 300 feet long. The oysters are scheduled for rigorous tumbling and drying frequently. They are exposed to air so they can develop large adductor muscles and clean shells. Washing and sorting happens about 8-12 times before they are the perfect market size. They are sorted and packaged by hand. They are then washed and purged using raw seawater. This ensures they grow to peak quality.

N.SEA Oyster Company is dedicated to raising sustainable and crafted shellfish. They aim at oysters that carry the North Carolinian taste while remaining true to the environment. Maintaining a positive impact on the environment is a big part of the company.

There are many oyster recipes available. Each restaurant and company typically has a specific way of preparing oysters. It all starts with having flavorful oysters. N.SEA Oyster Company offers a method for shucking oysters that is a step-by-step process that is shown clearly in a graphic on their website.

Some of their signature recipes include:

  • Conor’s Cast Iron Oyster Chowder
  • Conor’s Oyster Sliders

The Frying Pan Shoals Light Tower is a huge part of history. It has survived numerous extreme weather conditions without as much as a crack. The tower was built to make the area safe for navigation and did its part until GPS made it obsolete. It was used by notorious pirates like Blackbeard to attack merchant ships. They would hide behind the island and, as the ships approached, launch swift attacks. The tower is currently owned by Richard Neal, who is focused on restoring and preserving it for later generations.

This place is for Publicity

This place is for Publicity

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