Wow. Day 2 driving up the PCH was beyond incredible. I started off by grabbing coffee and a croissant in Morro Bay and stopping to take some photos of the charming beach town and big rock that juts from the water near the beach, which is also home to dozens of long-beaked shore birds, the name of which I have now forgotten of course.
From there I made my way back up to San Simeon to tour Hearst Castle, which was amazing. The 30 minute bus ride up to the property is worth the time; the views down from the narrow winding road are almost surreal. The castle itself is a memorial to opulence, and definitely must be seen to be believed.
Just past Hearst Castle heading north on the PCH is an elephant seal sanctuary/rookery viewing area that's free and open to the public. Just about every inch of the coastline between San Simeon and Monterey was completely spectacular - I took my time and stopped quite a bit, but there was so much phenomenal scenery that I still regret the stops I didn't make and shots I didn't get.
Then the coast gave way to Los Padres National Forest and Big Sur. I was beyond grateful for the beautiful weather while driving the winding road as it climbed into the mountains and back down again. At the more popular vistas like Bixby Bridge there were loads of tourists, so I can't imagine how crowded it must get in peak summer travel season.
After a full day of driving and nothing to eat but that morning croissant, I was completely starving and desperately made my way into Forge In The Forest in Carmel-by-the-Sea for French onion soup, a beet salad, and hot cider - a perfect end to a perfect day.