It is the centre of an agricultural district based mainly on sheep farming, and is a significant town and logistical support hub on the N1 national road.
Next door to Beaufort West is the Karoo National Park. Important Permian era fossils have been found in the area to the west of the town. Initially found by David Baird, son of the local magistrate in 1827. The old Town Hall and the Dutch Reformed Church have been declared national monuments.