The Jajowarrung Aborigines originally occupied the area and called it 'Peerick'. Major Thomas Mitchell was the first European in the area. In 1838 the first squatters were the Kirklands and a Mr Hamilton who took up land. 'Trawalla' station established by Mr Hamilton was taken over in 1841 by Adolphus Goldsmith who built up a rich grazing enterprise.
Gold was discovered around Beaufort in 1852 with another rush in 1854 at Fiery Creek to the west of the town. Of the diggings in the area four towns sprang up. Beaufort was one of these. The town's population rose dramatically. At the peak of the rush it is claimed that there were 10 000 prospectors. Although some 450,000 ounces of gold was produced over a two-year period, 1855-1856, the mining was short-lived as most of the alluvial gold was gone within 10 years but reef mining continued until 1914. In 1857 a survey was undertaken, town allotments were established and were sold from 1858.
It is understood the town was named after Rear Admiral Francis Beaufort who devised the Beaufort scale for measuring wind velocity. However, some suggest the source is a village in Monmouthshire, Wales.
Bernard O'Dowd a radical activist, labour leader and poet, was born at Beaufort in 1866. His attempts to set up a local school failed as his free-thinking, skeptical attitude to conventional religiosity and wayward spiritualism were unpopular. On a more earthy note, it is alleged that vegemite was invented at Beaufort in 1923 by Dr Cyril Percy Callister.
With the reduction in mining, grazing reasserted itself, logging got under way and agriculture developed with some ex-miners taking up selections in the district. A flour mill opened in 1865 and the railway arrived in 1874.
The legacy of this period can still be identified around the town today with several historical buildings in use. Those dating back to the gold rush days include the post office, the railway station in Pratt Street and the Catholic Church which was built in the early 1860s. The primary school was established in 1864 the same year the first council meeting was held.
Beaufort’s commercial area stretches along a section of Neill and Lawrence Streets, with a blend of old-style architecture and modern buildings. At the western end of the commercial centre is an octagonal band rotunda crowned with an ornate clock. This structure was built in 1903. Across the road along Livingstone Street is a triangular-shaped Memorial Park encompassing a war memorial and surrounding rose gardens.
The very visible hill to the north of Beaufort is Camp Hill Reserve. This area includes native forest along a ridge overlooking the town centre, picnic areas, a BBQ shelter and has a lookout offering scenic views across the town and surrounding countryside.
Beaufort Lake is located south of the town beside the Goldfields Recreation Reserve first opened as a park in 1884. Access to the lake is via the main entrance off Skipton Road past the sports oval, or along Lake Road which follows the bushy eastern shoreline of the lake. Walking tracks around the lake, picnic areas, a jetty and a caravan park all overlook the water.
Currently the town is a service centre to the surrounding area which produces beef, fat lambs, wool, cereals and timber. There is a timber-treatment plant in town.