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Harboring celebration at Haven on the Banks

A haven is defined as a place of safety, where one can take refuge and feel at home. Gerry and Tara Wilkins have created their own haven right here on the Outer Banks with their brand-new event center.

Haven on the Banks started as an idea stemmed from a mere bike ride. Tara and Gerry were looking for a project to take on together after they married in 2016. As they biked down the Beach Road one morning, they saw several tents set up for weddings that were about to take place that day.

“We said ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do a cottage court,’” Gerry shared in an interview with The Coastland Times. Their cottage court concept led them to start looking for parcels of land for sale.

“It was the freakiest thing,” Gerry started, “two weeks later this lady put a sign up in the front of the lot.” That lot later became home to the couple’s Keeper’s Galley, the on-site event center, along with six freshly renovated and designed beach homes accompanied by a tiki bar, pool and courtyard.

The dream that the couple drew on a little napkin has morphed into an all-in-one event center. “It’s a one-stop shop,” Tara said. The event center is equipped with a full prep kitchen, bridal get-ready suite and mimosa bar, groom suite, in-house lighting, fireplace and more.

Gerry said their original idea was to have a tent to house a wedding party. The tent became a pole barn and eventually the pole barn became Keeper’s Galley.

Two and a half years after the couple purchased the land and started to create their vision, the event center was just near completion. Then COVID-19 brought everything to a crashing halt.

“It was tough,” Tara admitted. “But the whole property is awesome for a Plan B.” As for that backup plan, Tara and Gerry started to rent out their six four-bedroom homes to guests throughout the summer. All weddings that were scheduled for 2020 were re-scheduled for the following year and the couple has been working tirelessly ensure their venue is ready for guests whenever large gatherings are permitted once again.

“We can’t wait to see what it’s like when we are full speed ahead, firing on both cylinders,” Tara shared. So far, the duo has hosted a couple of showers and smaller events to test-run the venue. Their homes have been booked up since the summer started rolling. As for the site itself, the views speak for themselves.

“Once we get a bride and groom here, 90% [of them] book,” Tara said. From the crystal chandeliers to the customizable boxwood wall spiral staircase leading to a lookout over the coastal scenery, it’s no wonder the climate-controlled event site has been in high demand since its arrival to the Outer Banks.

Keeper’s Galley is a nod to the Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station and each house along with the tiki bar was named after a lighthouse in North Carolina. “We really tried hard to get that Outer Banks feel,” Gerry commented.

The Outer Banks has always been one big community. At Haven on the Banks, a community has already begun to form. “We have people that stay in our homes that make connections with each other,” Tara said.

Since renting out their guest homes individually, the couple has seen many families form friendships just by staying across the way from one another.

Tara said, “We want you to feel at home while you’re here.”

The homes come stocked with wine baskets, toiletries, individual hot tubs, picnic areas and more. The courtyard, reserved for bookings of the Keeper’s Galley, houses a photogenic pergola and outdoor bar, soon to be equipped with speakers.

At Haven on the Banks, the Wilkinses have embraced flexibility and gear more towards an a la carte style rather than having their guests feel like they must conform to what is offered.

“Administratively, it’s a lot to keep up with, but it’s better. They get what they want this way,” Tara said.

To learn more about Haven on the Banks, visit www.havenonthebanks.com.

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