The relationship between Adélie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) and ice is well established, with sea ice influencing penguin populations through a variety of processes operating at different spatial and temporal scales. To further explain the relationship between sea ice and Adélie Penguin reproductive performance, we investigated the relative importance of various measures of sea ice cover on breeding success at Béchervaise Island, East Antarctica. Our results show a clear distinction in the response of penguins to different types of ice, as well as to the timing of the presence of sea ice. Nearshore sea ice, which is composed primarily of fast ice during the guard stage of the breeding season, had an overwhelmingly strong and negative impact on penguin reproductive performance. The influence of winter and offshore guard-stage ice was only evident in conjunction with nearshore ice. Predicting Adélie Penguin population growth in relation to changes in the sea ice environment may be complicated because penguin–ice interactions vary according to the type of sea ice present, the season in which it is present, and the processes contributing to population growth that are influenced by sea ice.