It is the oldest European settlement in western New South Wales, and the first town to be established on the Darling River. A weir on the Darling River near Menindee diverts water from the river into a series of shallow, otherwise dry, overflow lakes. These lakes, the Menindee Water Storage Scheme, regulate the river flow for irrigation downstream into South Australia.
The first European to visit the area was the surveyor and explorer Major Thomas Mitchell in 1835. He was followed by Charles Sturt in 1844 and the town was the advance base for the Burke and Wills expedition in 1860.
Menindee is located where the transcontinental railway line crosses the Darling River. The town is serviced by the CountryLink 'Outback Xplorer' passenger train from Sydney to Broken Hill on Monday, returning from Broken Hill to Sydney on Tuesday. The GSR Indian Pacific also stops twice-weekly in each direction on request. The railway line is about 900 km west of Sydney and about 110 kilometres south-east of Broken Hill.
Situated on the western edge of town is the Kinchega National Park.