The town was laid out on the bank of the Brakrivier watercourse in 1843, when the Dutch Reformed Church bought the farm Zeekoegat from a local farmer. It was named Victoria in 1844, after Queen Victoria, though amended to Victoria West in 1855 to distinguish it from an Eastern Cape district. The Cape Government Railways oversaw a massive expansion in the Cape Colony's railway system in the 1870s, though the route to Victoria West was only completed in 1881. The railway connection spurred economic development and the town's demographic growth over the following decades.
The town has a small airport (ICAO: FAVW), used only by light aircraft, but until the 1970s when they stopped operating piston engined airliners such as the Douglas DC-3, it was a refueling stop for South African Airways between Cape Town and destinations to the north.