The club is a symbol of Australia's British heritage and was established at a gathering of 23 gentlemen on Saturday, 17 December 1838 and initially used John Pascoe Fawkner's hotel on the corner of Collins Street and Market Street. The Melbourne Club building is of architectural significance as a rare intact example of a nineteenth-century purpose-built clubhouse in the Victorian Renaissance style.
At the rear of the Club building is a private courtyard garden, maintained by arborist-horticulturalist John Fordham, which is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, and is the location of garden parties and private functions. The garden contains the largest plane tree in Victoria according to the National Trust's Register of Significant Trees.
The Melbourne Club does not allow female membership.
Frederick Powlett (1811–1865) was a founding member in 1838 as well as being a founding member and the first recorded president of the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1838. He was a public servant, a police magistrate and later chief commissioner of Crown Lands.
Other notable members:
- Governors-General Sir Isaac Isaacs, Sir Ninian Stephen and Rt Rev Hon Peter Hollingworth;
- Governors of Victoria Sir Henry Winneke, Sir James Gobbo and the Hon Alex Chernov;
- Chief Justices of Australia Sir John Latham and Sir Owen Dixon;
- High Court Justices Sir Daryl Dawson and Kenneth Madison Hayne;
- Chief Justices of Victoria Sir William Foster Stawell, Sir William Irvine, Sir Frederick Mann, Sir Edmund Herring, Sir Henry Winneke and Sir John Young;
- Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser;
- Politicians Sir John Bloomfield, Andrew Peacock and Admiral Sir William Bridges;
- Generals Sir Brudenell White and Sir William Johnston;
- Chief Commissioners of Victoria Police Sir William Mitchell, Sir Charles MacMahon and Frederick Standish;
- Artists Sir Arthur Streeton and Sir Daryl Lindsay;
- Prominent businessmen Sir James Balderstone, Hugh Morgan, Don Argus and Kevan Gosper.
- McNicoll, Ronald (1988). Number 36 Collins Street (2008 ed.). Australia: Allen & Unwin/Haynes in conjunction with the Melbourne Club. ISBN 978 0 04378 008 4.
- Young, Helen (20 February 2016). "Open gardens: Melbourne Club's walled oasis". The Australian. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
- "Men's clubs remain women-free zones". abc.net.au. 25 November 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- Melbourne Club (1857). Rules and regulations of the Melbourne Club, Victoria. Melbourne : Goodhugh & Hough, Printers.
- "Exclusive clubs feud over highrise plan". ABC Radio. 15 February 2000. Retrieved 24 February 2010.