The town was founded in the early 1870s, and was named after Sir Walter Scott’s work of historical fiction, Ivanhoe. The township was situated on well-used coach and stock routes connecting Wilcannia on the Darling River with Balranald on the Murrumbidgee and Booligal on the Lachlan.
The Ivanhoe self-guided Heritage Trail provides a good introduction to the town and its history. A separate sign-posted location along the trail gives detailed descriptions of the arrival of the railway, the Government Tank, Post Office bushrangers, watering holes, industrial trouble the Cobb Highway and the reminiscences, with the exception of the railway station all sites are located within a block of the main street. A pamphlet with details of the heritage trail is available from the post office and other retail outlets around the area.