Most decommissioned oil platforms are abandoned, dismantled, or deemed too expensive for habitation, but the Frying Pan Shoals Light Station, an 85-foot-high platform standing in the raging Atlantic off the North Carolina coast, has been recycled. Richard Neal, a 9-to-5 software salesman from Charlotte, spent $85,000 on the platform in 2010. Since then he has made the rig into America's most adventurous bed-and-breakfast.
Neal has spent over $100,000 repairing the rig's corroded walls, updating the electrical system, redoing the plumbing, and overhauling seven bedrooms. The ultimate mid-Atlantic hotel can now house eight guests – provided those guest are intrepid enough to make the trip from shore. Helicopters from Myrtle Beach and boats from Holden Beach ferry visitors out to the station.
Neal says he never wanted to create a high-end resort. His plan was to offer travelers a unique destination where they could dive, fish, and watch the sunset out of the reach of everyday hassles. He followed the plan and now offers rustic, if rusty, accommodations. The rig's light was originally designed to warn ships of the shifting sandbars at the confluence of Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, but doubles as a great place to have a beer. The neighbors aren't bothersome either – 10 ships, including the 290-foot City of Houston, which sank in 1878, lie on the bottom nearby. Neal says about 50 different fish species and mammoth spiny lobsters reside in the reefs around the tower's base.
Guests can also explore the area on Jet Skis or float above the tower by strapping into a parachute tethered to the helipad. Neal tells guests to do whatever they want while being careful – shore is a long way away.
More information: An all-included three-day, two-night trip to Frying Pan Shoals costs $498 per person.