Beaudesert, a rural town, is 53 km south of central Brisbane. It was named after 'Beau Desert', a grazing place occupied under a depasturing licence in 1842. Situated in the Logan Valley, the depasturing place was held on behalf of a Bathurst grazier, Wiliam Henry Suttor. The name was derived from the Cistercian Monastery, Beau Desir, in Staffordshire, England. W.D. White acquired the site in 1851 and built a homestead on the present site of the Beaudesert township.
In the 1860s the Logan Valley came under agricultural settlement and cotton growing occurred at Veresdale and Gleneagle, immediately north of Beaudesert. From 1863 the cotton workers were indentured labourers from the South Sea Islands, the first such use in Queensland. The Veresdale village was then the main settlement, with timber cutting (hoop pine) increasing and supplanting cotton when demand for the latter fell at the end of the American Civil War.
Farm selections in the Logan Valley began in the late 1860s, and the Beaudesert pastoral station was resumed for settlement. A Beaudesert township was surveyed and the first sale of town blocks took place in 1874. By the late 1870s there existed a store and a post office. Local government began with the Tabragalba Divisional Board (proclaimed 1879), an area that extended to Tamborine and Waterford. By 1880 Beaudesert boasted a hotel, blacksmith's, saddler's, and post office. During the 1880s a provisional school was opened in Beaudesert and Michael Enright opened a small store, the forerunner of a provincial department store, which in the 1970s still had the largest retail floor space of any shop in Beaudesert.
In anticipation of a railway extension the Railway Hotel was opened in 1887. When the line from Bethania Junction opened the following year Beaudesert was positioned to become the provincial centre for the upper Logan and Albert River Valleys and for farm communities as far south as the McPherson Ranges over the New South Wales border. A sawmill and a Church of England were opened in 1888.
In the 1890s and the first years of the new century a Catholic church, a convent and a school were opened, a cottage hospital (1900) was built and the Logan and Albert Agricultural and Pastoral Association was established (1895). A butter factory, the Logan and Albert Co-operative, was opened in 1904. The town's population was approaching 1000 when it was described in 1903 in the Australian handbook:
The year before, the Beaudesert Shire tramway, an extension of the railway, had been opened, ultimately extending lines southwards to Rathdowney and Hillview. It transported timber, dairy produce and livestock to the Beaudesert railhead. Bypassed in 1930 by the uniform gauge interstate line, the tramway was closed in 1944.
In 1912 the town became a separate municipality, but re-united with the shire in 1929.
Educationally, Beaudesert opened a Rural School in 1927, to which was added a secondary department in 1954. A separate State high school opened ten years later. The Catholic Church opened Boys Town, an institution catering to troubled juveniles, on the town's south-western outskirt in 1961, and which included primary and secondary school facilities. Other developments included a two storey civic centre constructed in 1959, and the formation of the Beaudesert Historical Society (1961), housed in the old Tabragalba Divisional Board offices in Jubilee Park. The war memorial, a 10 metre sandstone obelisk with a digger soldier, is heritage-listed.
By the mid-1980s Beaudesert's population was 4000, prompting the opening of a drive-in shopping centre (1987) with a supermarket, discount department store and 20 shops. Beaudesert hosts numerous small manufacturing and industrial concerns, together with several larger operations such as a pet food factory and gelatine plant.
Protestors, including local landholders and farmers, rallied against drilling for coal seam gas with a blockade at Beaudesert in 2012.
Situated where the Mount Lindesay Highway intersects the road from Nerang to Boonah, Beaudesert also lies between the Logan and Albert Rivers. It has a racecourse, golf course, showground, museum and information centre, an Olympic swimming pool, and several recreation reserves. There are six churches, a hospital, comprehensive shopping facilities, State (1882) and Catholic (1901) primary schools, the State high school (1963) and two local newspapers, one of which, the Beaudesert Times, was formed out of newspapers begun in the 1890s. The Catholic primary school St Mary's was damaged by fire in 2013. The Centre for Beaudesert Shire Arts and Culture (2007) hosts concerts, exhibitions, workshops and art classes. The maternity unit of the hospital closed in 2001 but reopened in 2014. A proposed 1.5 km road bypass of Beaudesert was approved in 2014.
Beaudesert was the administrative centre of Beaudesert Shire, and is the main office of the Scenic Rim Regional Council.
Filmmaker Peter Hegedus produced a documentary on Beaudesert as part of the series ‘Big Stories Small Towns’ (2015) which featured stories of people in Beaudesert.
The town hosts an annual campdraft at the Beaudesert showgrounds.
Beaudesert's census populations have been:
Kathleen Nutting, Then and now: the story of Beaudesert 1874-1974, Beaudesert, Beaudesert and District Centenary Committee, 1974
Nerelie Teese, Hurricane lamps & handmilking: a history of dairy farming along the Logan & Albert River Valleys, Veresdale, Nerelie Teese, 2001