Polar lakes respond quickly to climate-induced environmental changes. We studied the chemicallimnological variability in 127 lakes and ponds from eight ice-free regions along the East Antarcticcoastline, and compared repeat specific conductance measurements from lakes in the Larsemann Hills andSkarvsnes covering the periods 1987–2009 and 1997–2008, respectively. Specific conductance, theconcentration of the major ions, pH and the concentration of the major nutrients underlie the variation inlimnology between and within the regions. This limnological variability is probably related to differences inthe time of deglaciation, lake origin and evolution, geology and geomorphology of the lake basins and theircatchment areas, sub-regional climate patterns, the distance of the lakes and the lake districts to the icesheet and the Southern Ocean, and the presence of particular biota in the lakes and their catchment areas. Inregions where repeat surveys were available, inter-annual and inter-decadal variability in specificconductance was relatively large and most pronounced in the non-dilute lakes with a low lake depth tosurface area ratio. We conclude that long-term specific conductance measurements in these lakes arecomplementary to snow accumulation data from ice cores, inexpensive, easy to obtain, and should thus bepart of long-term limnological and biological monitoring programmes.